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Phil Foden Hits Hat-Trick As Manchester City Crush Aston Villa

Phil Foden shone in the absence of Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne as the England international's hat-trick handed Manchester City a thumping 4-1 win over Aston Villa on Wednesday. The champions responded emphatically to questions over their ability to win the biggest games to move to within one point of leaders Arsenal at the top of the Premier League. City had not beaten a side in the Premier League's top five in six attempts this season prior to the visit of fourth-placed Villa to the Etihad.

But Pep Guardiola showed faith in the depth of his squad by leaving Haaland and De Bruyne on the bench for the full 90 minutes ahead of a hectic schedule in their defence of three competitions.

"The schedule is terrible and we have to bring energy. Everybody has to be involved," said Guardiola on his decision to leave out Haaland and De Bruyne.

Guardiola has hailed Foden as the best player in the English top-flight this season and the 23-year-old backed up his manager's words by taking his goal tally for the season to 21.

"Phil, when he plays in a central position, he has a sense of goal," added Guardiola.

"He's a really top class player -- he has a natural talent, a gift."

City were beaten 1-0 by Villa when the sides met in December, but that was their last defeat as Guardiola's men are now unbeaten in 24 games.

And Unai Emery conceded the gulf between the sides showed.

"We performed very well in different circumstances (at home to City). Today they showed their power and deserved to win," said the Villa boss.

Jeremy Doku was one of those to return to the City side among four changes and the Belgian rewarded his manager with his brightest display in a City shirt for months.

Doku was the creator for the opener as he skipped

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