After Arsenal battles Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, the Gunners will be back on the pitch just three days later for another important league game against Aston Villa.
The Gunners go into the City battle unbeaten in their last eight league games, and with Chelsea drawing 1-1 with Wigan on Saturday, Arsenal can climb back into the top four this week.
Villa currently sits at tenth in the league table with 19 points and is once again stuck in mediocrity. Villa is 1-1-2 in their last four league games and have not been able to win games against England's top teams.
This match is very important for both clubs and it should be an exciting one to watch. Let's look at everything you need to know about this awesome match-up.
Where: Villa Park, Birmingham, England
Watch: ESPN3 USA
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
When: Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 2:45 p.m. EST
Player to watch for Arsenal: Mikel Arteta
Despite Robin van Persie's brilliant goal-scoring form this season, Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta is the player to watch against on Wednesday.
The Gunners signed the playmaker from Everton on the last day of the summer transfer window in August and he has been a very good player for the Gunners.
He is really starting to hit his stride at the Emirates and will be a vital part of the club's success this season.
Player to watch for Aston Villa: Darren Bent
Villa striker Darren Bent is a fantastic forward and is tied for the club lead with five goals in league play this season.
Bent has good speed and is a very accurate shooter around the 18-yard box. Arsenal must make sure they mark him at all times because Bent is capable of scoring goals quickly if the Gunners get lazy at the back.
Key Matchup: Arsenal center backs vs. Aston Villa strikers
Per Mertesacker has not had an easy transition to the Premier League since joining Arsenal from the Bundesliga in August. The tall German may struggle to keep pace with Villa's speedy strikers Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Arsenal must create quality scoring chances and be strong in the center of the pitch and not let the Villa strikers run at their center backs.
What They're Saying
Villa manager Alex McLeish has tried to get his players believing they can come out of their back-to-back games with Liverpool and Arsenal with positive results.
“I will try to get the Villa boys believing they can win these games,” said McLeish. “It’s all about prestige. These games put players on the map. “We’ve got to try and make sure the teams are leaving Villa Park knowing they’ve been in a big game.
“Games like this can bring the best out of players and this is where they earn their corn and get recognised as great players when they start to take points off the big guns.”
Prediction: Arsenal win 2-1
Aston Villa put up a good fight against Manchester United at Villa Park on December 3 but they will not be able to stop Robin van Persie and the Arsenal attack which is in fine form in league play.
The Villa defense is not talented enough to prevent the Gunners from scoring enough goals to win. And without a midfielder who can stop Arteta from supplying the forwards, Villa will not take any points from this match.
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