Aston Villa v Arsenal - Match Preview

Arsenal head back up the M6 tonight to take on Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa in a match Arsenal have to win to be taken seriously as title contenders this season.
After Sundays defeat at Stoke City in the F.A Cup, Arsene Wenger is expected to name a near enough different starting 11 for tonight’s match.
Only captain Cesc Fabregas and Denilson are set to be retained from the loss at the Britannia Stadium, with the team looking more like the one that beat Bolton Wanderers to go briefly top of the Premier League last week.
Cameroon international Alex Song has not yet flown back from the African Nations cup after his teams defeat to Egypt, but Bacary Sagna will be risked despite carrying a slight shoulder injury.
One boost for the Arsenal squad is the return of Nicklas Bendtner who has been out for over three months with a groin injury.  The Danish international has been missed as the team struggled with the loss of Bendtner and Robin van Persie since before Christmas and other strikers such as Eduardo have struggled to find the back of the net.
Carling Cup finalists Villa are on a roll, commanding a good place in the league, and through to their first cup final in a decade and having put Brighton and Hove Albion out of the F.A Cup have earned themselves an away trip to either Wolverhampton Wanderers or Crystal Palace for a place in the quarter finals.
There is a boost for Arsenal though as the cup encounters have taken their toll on the Villa side with young star Fabian Delph expected to retain his place in the side.
O’Neill has other worries as Stephen Warnock, Nigel Reo-Coker, Wilfred Bouma, Marlon Harewood and John Carew are all expected to miss out due to injury.  Brad Friedel is expected to return in between the sticks for Villa having missed the last two matches.
Villa have become a bit of a bogey side for Arsenal in the last couple of seasons, despite winning the home game comfortably 3-0, the Birmingham club took four points off Arsenal last season, which included a pulsating game on Boxing Day 2008 when Curtis Davies rescued a late point for Villa as they came from 2-0 down to draw.
The bookies have Arsenal down as favourites with Arsenal 11/10 to win, and Villa at 5/2

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