Richards, 27, played almost 250 times for boyhood club City after earning his first-team debut in October 2005, before joining Villa on a free transfer this summer after his contract expired.
His first two seasons in the senior squad saw him start on the same backline as Distin, who later went on to spells at Portsmouth, Everton and now-Bournemouth, and the then-teenager remains grateful for the advice he received from his fellow defender during that crucial stage of his development.
Speaking ahead of facing the Frenchman at Dean Court, Richards said: "Sylvain was - and remains - a great player. I learned so much from playing alongside him at Man City and I will always be grateful.
"I played at right-back and in the middle you had Sylvain Distin and Richard Dunne. They were great to be alongside because they were brilliant players and offered so much wisdom to you before, during and after games.
"Sylvain gave me plenty of advice over the period we were together and I learned so much playing with him at the back.”
Distin joined Premier League newcomers Bournemouth this summer after spending six seasons at Everton and Richards believes his experience will prove crucial in the Cherries' bid to avoid dropping straight back down to the Championship.
"He's joined Bournemouth this season and I believe he will be a big influence there,” added Richards. "Having lads like Sylvain around, who have seen it and done it all before, will be invaluable for them.
"It's more than that, though, he's still a top player. He has it all - he's strong, he's quick, he's good in the air and he reads the game well. He will be a big asset for them."
Richards, meanwhile, is set to partner Ciaran Clark in the heart of Villa’s defence this weekend, as he looks to reignite his career following a difficult few seasons.
The versatile defender, who has 13 England caps to his name, found his first-team opportunities limited during his final two campaigns at the Etihad Stadium, before spending last term out on loan at Fiorentina after being deemed surplus to requirements.
Nevertheless, he is expected to be a vital member of Tim Sherwood’s revamped Villa side after being named the club’s new captain this week and will be hoping that a solid start to his claret and blue career can get him back in the Three Lions picture.