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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

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O'Neill expects City to challenge the top four

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill knows Manchester City will pose a real threat when they visit Villa Park on Monday night, a game which is broadcast live on ESPN in the UK.

Although some had questioned City's ability to hit the ground running with so many new faces, O'Neill always believed that Mark Hughes would be able to organise his side quickly.

City have won five of their six Premier League games so far this term and will definitely move back into the top four with victory against O'Neill's side. Villa, though, are just three points behind them and will be looking to make a point of their own.

The former Celtic boss said: "You can draw comparisons with Chelsea a few years ago. They had a talented manager in place (Jose Mourinho) and won two Premier League titles on the bounce.

"They made Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal sit up and take notice. Now Manchester City have been able to accumulate players by spending big. In a couple of years time probably some other club will be able to do the same again.

"City are a very big threat to the top four. They are playing with a great deal of confidence and very well. They are a genuine threat to the top four, even as soon as this year. I saw them against West Ham last Monday night and they played exceptionally well. They are flying and now they have got Adebayor to come back in.

"I assume he will start because he has played splendidly. He is a very good player. I am not sure what happened with Arsenal but he has gone to City and is flying at the minute.''

O'Neill is well aware of the talents of Adebayor's possible strike partner - Craig Bellamy - after working with him when manager of Celtic.

He explained: "Craig is playing as well as anyone. He has had a lot of clubs and sometimes that suggests you are a bit of a wanderer and don't settle down. He went to Liverpool and maybe didn't play as often as he wanted to but he can play. I had him at Celtic for four months and he was brilliant.

"If he stays fit, he is a handful to any defence in the Premier League and in Europe. His confidence is very high at this minute but Craig's character doesn't change just because he has a load of confidence or not. He is still the same abrasive lad but a very good player.''

O'Neill reaffirmed he will be rotating his squad more regularly during the current campaign after Villa ran out of steam at the tail-end of last season. He said: "Any player worth his salt wants to play and wants to play pretty regularly.

"Certainly in recent years the big squads are very necessary because you are playing a lot of football. You are going to have to change things around a little bit. It didn't seem to be a big problem maybe 15 or 20 years ago.

"But nowadays you have to have the squad. That in itself will cause a problem or two because all the fine players want to play every week. If you have a system like Manchester United, where it has worked consistently, then people accept those consequences. It is a little bit different at other clubs.''

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