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Haaland, De Bruyne left out by Guardiola for Aston Villa clash

<a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/players/1734953/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Erling Haaland;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Erling Haaland</a> (right) was dropped to the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/man-city/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Manchester City;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Manchester City</a> bench for Wednesday's clash against <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/aston-villa/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Aston Villa;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Aston Villa</a> (Darren Staples)

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola dropped Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne to the bench for Wednesday's crucial Premier League clash against Aston Villa at the Etihad.

Guardiola had staunchly defended Haaland during his pre-match press conference after criticism from former Manchester United captain Roy Keane.

Keane said the Norwegian's general play was only befitting of a player in England's fourth-tier League Two during Sunday's 0-0 draw at home to Arsenal.

Haaland, who scored 52 goals as City won a treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup last season, has struggled for his best form since suffering a foot injury in a 1-0 defeat to Villa in December.

The 23-year-old has 29 goals in all competitions this season but has failed to score in 12 of his last 17 matches for club and country and is goalless in his last five games.

Guardiola makes four changes in total as Rico Lewis, Jack Grealish, Jeremy Doku and Julian Alvarez come in with the injured Nathan Ake and Mateo Kovacic also dropping out.

Villa are also without a couple of key players as top scorer Ollie Watkins and Argentine World Cup winning goalkeeper Emi Martinez are missing due to injury and illness respectively.

kca/nf