x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Hughes joy at City win over jaded Villa

Mark Hughes believes Shaun Wright-Phillips has got his smile back since he returned to Manchester City after the winger's goal in the win against Aston Villa.

Mark Hughes believes Shaun Wright-Phillips has got his smile back since he returned to Manchester City. Wright-Phillips played a starring role on Wednesday night, being brought down for City's opener before wrapping up a 2-0 win over a tired-looking Aston Villa side with a well-taken effort two minutes from time. And Hughes is delighted with the form of the former Chelsea man, saying; "There is joy in his game. He has always played with a smile on his face but your enthusiasm can soon be blunted if you are not playing every week," said the City boss. He added: "Shaun has come back from Chelsea as a better player but he has come back to what he regards as his club and I felt he did really well." Hughes confirmed City's new signing Nigel de Jong had been substituted with a knee injury, although he does not feel the damage, in an area where the Dutchman has suffered problems before, is too extensive. And, after undergoing scans on Tuesday, he revealed Craig Bellamy will be out for no longer than three weeks with the injury he suffered at West Ham on Sunday.

All this is of little consequence for Villa boss Martin O'Neill, whose side are suddenly starting to struggle after doing so well this term. Villa have now gone six games without a win in all competitions and seen their lead over Arsenal in the battle for fourth spot shrink to four points. However, O'Neill insists his side is not getting nervous and ? after a brief break in Dubai ? has vowed they will be fully firing over the final 10 games. "Maybe we are being a bit naive thinking we can challenge those top four sides, who have been up there so consistently over the last few years, but whatever happens, we should relish the challenge," said O'Neill. "We are not nervous ? we are excited. Really, if you are not excited by the position we are in, you shouldn't be playing." *PA Sport