Arsenal look to build on an encouraging week when they take on struggling Aston Villa at Villa Park on Saturday.
The Gunners were under pressure as they headed into last weekend’s north London derby, but boss Arsene Wenger must now hope that a resounding 5-2 victory in that fixture can reignite their flailing season.
The signs were good as Arsenal clinched their place in the Champions League knockout phase with a 2-0 win over Montpellier on Wednesday and a third win on the bounce will now be anticipated.
In contrast, Villa have lost their past two matches, although in very different circumstances. Manager Paul Lambert and his side earned much credit for their performance in a 3-2 defeat to Manchester United, but there was little to glean from a 5-0 drubbing by Manchester City last Saturday.
That result dropped Villa into the bottom three and relegation must now be a serious concern for Lambert. There is plenty of promise in the Scot’s team, but a lack of experience is being exposed, particularly with the likes of Richard Dunne, Stillian Petrov and Charles N’Zogbia unavailable.
Joe Bennett and Chris Herd will also be missing against Arsenal, although Darren Bent and Eric Lichaj will return to the squad.
Arsenal will still be without Theo Walcott, but Gervinho could start after making a comeback from injury as a substitute against Montpellier. Kieran Gibbs may come back into the defense to allow Thomas Vermaelen to move back into the center.
Aston Villa (probable)
D: Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Baker
M: Ahmadi, Bannan
Holman, Ireland, Agbonlahor
D: Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen
M: Arteta, Wilshere
Gervinho, Cazorla, Podolski
Prediction: There is likely to be a huge contrast in the confidence of the two sides after their diverging past week. Villa have been much better in first halves of matches this season and they may pose Arsenal some problems until late on. But eventually Arsenal’s likely dominance of possession should see the visitors pick up the victory.
Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League contest kicks-off at 12.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.