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No rest for Man City, Real Madrid prepares for Champions League clash

Real Madrid’s Ancelotti

LONDON, UK | Xinhua | Manchester City has another vital game in their efforts to retain the Premier League title on Wednesday when they entertain fourth-placed Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium.

The match comes after City was held to a 0-0 draw at home to Arsenal last Sunday, and ahead of a trip to play Crystal Palace on Saturday lunchtime.

With Pep Guardiola’s side three points behind Liverpool, who has what should be a straightforward home game against Sheffield United on Thursday, there is no room for error, with any more dropped points perhaps meaning the end for City’s title hopes.

City is still without Kyle Walker, who strained his thigh playing for England, while Nathan Ake is also unlikely to play after going off injured against Arsenal.

Guardiola criticized the fixture calendar ahead of the Arsenal game at the weekend, pointing out that not only do his team have three vital Premier League matches in a week, but that the trip to Palace comes just four days before they visit the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to play Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal.

“Madrid have nine days to prepare for our game. Nine days! They play this weekend and then not again until our game – while I am thinking, ‘Oh, just give me one more day!” commented Guardiola before the Arsenal match.

Real Madrid doesn’t have a game next weekend, which has been reserved for the Copa del Rey final between Athletic Bilbao and Mallorca, and speaking after his side’s 2-0 win at home to Athletic on Sunday, coach Carlo Ancelotti said he understood Guardiola’s complaints, but said he didn’t think his side’s obvious advantage would “affect the result of the game.”

Ancelotti will use the nine-day break for his side to try to get Jude Bellingham back to his best after he looked jaded against Athletic, while Eder Militao will continue his return to full fitness. The defender came on as a late substitute against Athletic in his first appearance since rupturing his cruciate ligament in the first game of the season.

Real Madrid will also have Vinicius Jr fresh after he missed the weekend game due to suspension, while Guardiola will be crossing his fingers that his side doesn’t suffer any more injuries.

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