After the FA Cup exit at Stoke, Arsene Wenger is all set to bounce back, ideally with an impressive win at Villa Park. However, Martin O’Neill has some different ideas. His team has shown real quality and hunger to finish in the top four. Aston Villa have endured some indifferent league form of late but still is an audacious force at the home-turf.
Arsenal beat Villa 3-0 at the Emirates back in December but the score-line doesn't tell the whole story. It was a tough game, even though Cesc Fabregas made the difference when he came on and scored two quick-fire goals all in a matter of just 27 minutes. However, Arsenal paid a price for that victory as Fabregas aggravated his injury and is consequently sidelined for a few weeks.
Aston Villa's recent form against Arsenal is considerably poor as they succumbed to 14 defeats in the last 22 league meetings against the Gunners.
Wenger had a handful of injuries to deal with, but still managed to stay in the hunt for the Premier League. His young brigade have already exhibited great maturity and at times showed that Arsenal are not a delicate team anymore.
The worrying factor for Villa is surely Arsenal captain Fabregas who has been in sparkling form. The Spaniard has already scored 13 goals in this season and that's some number for a midfielder.
Abou Diaby is side-lined with a calf problem. He has been in great form and scored a goal in the previous fixture between the two clubs.
Nicklas Bendtner and Samir Nasri are back from injuries and might well feature on the bench.
Alex Song is another key player missing and he's poised to return later this week from the ANC.
Arsenal will have fullback Bacary Sagna available again following a shoulder problem.
Defenders Thomas Vermaelen, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy will also return having been rested for the FA Cup defeat at Stoke.
Possible Starting XI
Almunia, Sagna, Vermaelen, Gallas, Clichy, Fabregas, Denilson, Ramsey, Rosicky, Arshavin, Eduardo
Villa park is always a difficult place to go and score but still Arsenal's strict passing game might well give the edge. Probably a 2-1 victory for Arsenal.
A win will take Arsenal atop of the table before hosting Manchester United this weekend. It's make or break time and a win at Villa Park might well give the momentum for the Gunners to carry on until the end of the season.