Aston Villa dealt massive injury blow ahead of Man City clash

Aston Villa v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Aston Villa v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League / David Rogers/GettyImages

A shadow of doubt has fallen over Aston Villa's ambitious Champions League aspirations. The club's star striker, Ollie Watkins, is a confirmed absentee for their critical showdown against Manchester City on Wednesday, nursing a hamstring injury. The loss is a crushing blow for Villa, who have relied heavily on Watkins' relentless scoring prowess this season.

The 28-year-old Englishman, leading the Premier League in goal contributions, was withdrawn at the half during Villa's recent 2-0 win over Wolves. Despite his initial eagerness to soldier on, the club's medical staff wisely intervened, aiming to prevent a long-term setback. Manager Unai Emery, while underplaying the severity of the injury, acknowledged the absence of both Watkins and influential midfielder Jacob Ramsey as less than ideal.

Ollie Watkins
Aston Villa v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League / James Baylis - AMA/GettyImages

The timing of Watkins' injury couldn't be more unfortunate. The Villans currently maintain a precarious three-point advantage over Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification, with Spurs holding a game in hand. Without their driving force in attack, Aston Villa face a monumental task against the reigning champions.

Responsibility for carrying the offensive burden now falls on the shoulders of 20-year-old Colombian Jhon Duran. The promising forward has shown flashes of brilliance but has largely been outshined by Watkins' dominant form. This is Duran's chance to step into the spotlight, but filling a goalscorer's boots of Watkins' calibre is no small feat.

Meanwhile, Manchester City are not without their own injury woes. Kyle Walker, Ederson, and Nathan Ake are confirmed out, although the potential return of John Stones would be a defensive boost. The Citizens, locked in a nail-biting title race with Arsenal, can ill-afford to drop points, even with their depleted squad.

This match carries immense implications for both sides. Aston Villa, bolstered by their thrilling victory over City earlier this season, will be eager to spring another upset. Yet, without their primary attacking weapon, the task becomes significantly more daunting.

As Aston Villa navigate a brutal upcoming schedule, including Europa Conference League and Premier League fixtures, all eyes will be on Watkins' recovery. His potential return to the lineup will be critical as they fight tooth and nail to secure a place in the history books with a Champions League berth.