By Cy’rus Bengo in Namibia

Manchester City put a difficult week behind them as they cruised to a 3-1victory over Aston Villa.

The build-up to Sunday’s meeting at the Etihad Stadium was dominated by news of the Premier League accusing City of breaking over 100 financial regulations between 2009 and 2018.

Pep Guardiola, managing his 250th Premier League game, delivered an impassioned defence of his club and his players performedas they returned to winning ways following their loss at Tottenham last week.

Rodri’s header, Ilkay Gundogan’s tap-in and Riyad Mahrez’s penalty had City 3-0 up by the break, and though Ollie Watkins pulled one back for Villa, the champions comfortably closed thegap on Arsenal to three points ahead of Wednesday’s crunch meeting between the top two.

Having jeered the Premier League anthem, City’s fans had something to cheer inside four minutes, when Rodri headed in fromMahrez’s corner.

Only a fine save from Emiliano Martinez prevented Gundogan – City’s hero in the title-clinching comeback in last season’s corresponding fixture – making it 2-0.

Martinez was fortunate to be awarded a free-kick after a collision with Erling Haaland allowed Gundogan to arrow home.

Watkins marked his 100th Villa appearance by scoring in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time, capitalising on Manuel Akanji’s error.

It would prove nothing more than a consolation, with City unfortunate not to restore their three-goal cushion through Alvarez and Mahrez – who blasted over from close range late on – as they clinched a 13th straight home league win over Villa.

That challenge proved too big for the visitors, with City seemingly determined to put on a show and make a statement of intent after the Premier League’s allegations came to light.

City had 17shots, got nineon target and finished with an expected goals (xG) of 3.59– compared to 0.27for their opponents–and they will move top of the table should they defeat Arsenal on Wednesday.

They did offer some chances to Villa in the second half, with Watkins punishing them and Jhon Duran rattling the crossbar, but City were well worth the three points.

Pep brings 250 up in style

Guardiola’s 250th league game in charge of City featured some typically scintillating attacking play, and ended in a typically convincing success.

He has won 184 of those 250 matches (73.6 per cent), with his City side scoring 621 goals in the competition and toppling countless records.

Haaland concern

Comfortably up at half-time, Guardiola had the luxury of being able to take off City’s star striker, who did appear to be nursing a thigh problem in the first half.

City fans will hope it was just a precaution, with their clash with Arsenal just around the corner. Haaland, who was largely frustrated in the defeat at Spurs, was a menace in the first half, with his assist for Gundogan his 29th direct goal contribution in the top flightthisseason (11 more than any other player in the league).

Haaland was involved in one small flashpoint during his time on the pitch, with Mahrez seemingly taking over penalty duties against the Norway international’s wishes, though the incident was swiftly brushed aside.

What’s next?

City head to Emirates Stadium on Wednesday in what seems set to be the first trulypivotal clashinthis season’s tittle race, while the Gunners are also Villa’s next opponents on Saturday.

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