Are Manchester City back in a relegation scrap? Or are they too good to go down?!

While the Citizens are now favourites to win the UEFA Cup this season, something which their Arab owners are no doubt demanding they win, their league position is still precarious enough to see them sucked back into a dogfight which a few of their players won’t fancy very much.

At least Stephen Ireland is realistic enough to consider that Manchester City aren’t safe from the drop just yet, with The Guardian reporting the midfielder’s concerns. He was dismayed by the team’s performance at West Ham, not the first time that they have been lacklustre on their travels this season, with the player still optimistic they have enough quality to survive.

“It’s so tight in the league at the moment that you can end up anywhere with a win. But with a loss you can drop down and be fighting at the bottom. That is the situation we now find ourselves in,” conceded Ireland. “We need a win to get back on track, and to keep winning on a regular basis, because we haven’t been doing that.”

Hughes took encouragement from City’s performance at Upton Park and even went as far as to insist yesterday that they “should have won” the match. This, however, is not an assessment shared within the dressing room.

“We’re disappointed because we didn’t perform as we know we can,” added Ireland. “We lacked a bit of everything on the day — imagination, sharpness. We never got off the bus, to be honest.

“As a team we were not good enough against West Ham but every player as well as the staff knows what we have to do to get back on track. We’re determined to set it right starting by winning on Wednesday night.”

With Craig Bellamy and Robinho missing for Manchester City this week, it’s a big old ask for them to win against a Villa team who are pretty good on the road. While you might expect a decent showing from the home team at Eastlands, why are they so flimsy way from home, should Mark Hughes take the blame for a succession of lousy performances? Or have expectation levels merely been too high after the high profile takeover last September?

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