Aston Villa v Arsenal - Match Preview, Stats & Team News

To be played on Monday 13th January 2014 at 20:00. Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham.

Odds: Aston Villa 21/4, Draw 16/5, Arsenal 8/13

Last season: 0-0

Preview & injury news

Aston Villa may have been knocked out of the FA Cup after fielding a weakened side against Sheffield United but before that his side managed to arrest a decline in the league by picking up four points from two games after a losing streak which means they currently sit 11th. Arsenal are sitting a point clear at the top of the league after three consecutive hard fought victories over the festive period leaves them in a strong position - add to that their comfortable victory over Tottenham in the FA Cup, the Gunners are on a pretty good run of form.

On the injury front both sides have a fairly lengthy list of players in the treatment room. Villa are missing Libor Kozak for a good while as he recovers from a broken leg, whilst Charles N'Zogbia is still missing from the first team with his Achilles problem. Ron Vlaar could make a return for Villa at the heart of their defence after a calf problem, but fellow defender Nathan Baker is still sidelined.

For Arsenal, the most high profile casualty recently has been Theo Walcott as he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the cup win over Tottenham. The Gunners back line could be severely depleted with Kieran Gibbs struggling with a calf problem whilst Thomas Vermalen has a knee problem and is a doubt. Aaron Ramsey is likely to miss out but could be back for next week as he is recovering from a thigh injury, whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may make his long awaited return from a knee issue. Yaya Sonago is also thought to be back to full fitness in time for next week's match against Fulham. Nicklas Bendtner also misses out through an ankle injury but Olivier Giroud could return after an illness to lead the line for the Gunners. 

Key stats

Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak are Aston Villa's top scorers in the league this season with four goals each.

Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey are Arsenal's top scorers in the league this season with eight goals each.

Aston Villa had 35% possession in their last league match, a 1-0 away win against Sunderland.

Arsenal had 68% possession in their last league match, a 2-0 home win against Cardiff City.

5 players to watch

Gabriel Agbonlahor - Agbonlahor could be struggling to be fit for this but it would be a boost for the home side if he is as he seems to be carrying a decent goal threat at the moment. Add in the fact that he won both penalties for Villa in the win at the Emirates, his pace could stretch Arsenal. Can he have the same effect again?

Olivier Giroud - Giroud may be fit enough to return to action following an illness, and given that attacking options are thin on the ground, with Lukas Podolski being the other option, it would be a boost if the Frenchman was fit enough to start, and try to add his goal tally for the season.

Christian Benteke - Benteke has been going through a bit of a lean spell in front of goal lately, but Paul Lambert has indicated that the Belgian striker is showing signs of rediscovering the form that made him one of the most feared strikers in the league last season.

Tomas Rosicky - Rosicky has been an impressive performer in the Arsenal midfield this season and managed to get on the scoresheet against Tottenham in the FA Cup. Part of the motivation for his good performances could be that he has yet to be offered a new contract and the Czech midfielder will no doubt want to continue to show his worth to the side. 

Ashley Westwood - Though still a young man, Westwood has a lot of responsibility in the Villa midfield, and will eager to put in a good performance in the middle of the park against older heads. His manager thinks highly of him, even at one stage this season tipping him to succeed Michael Carrick in the England team. Can youth prevail over experience on Monday night?

Earlier on in the season

Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa, August 2013 

At the end of this game you would've thought it was groundhog day at Arsenal as Arsene Wenger came under a lot of pressure after this shock opening day defeat at the hands of Villa. Arsenal started the game well enough when Olivier Giroud gave them a sixth minute lead. Villa were awarded a penalty at the midway point of the half which Wojciech Szczesny saved from Christian Benteke but the Belgian striker nodded in the rebound. Villa were awarded another penalty, controversially, after Laurent Koscielny challenged Gabriel Agbonlahor on the hour mark, which Benteke converted. Koscielny was booked for that challenge, and then shown a second yellow card soon after for a challenge on Andreas Weimann. Villa rounded off the scoring when Antonio Luna finished from a Weimann through ball on the counter attack.

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