There are many occasions in soccer/football when a former star comes back to play against his old club. It will be one such occasion for Robert Pires and Arsenal when the gunners visit Villa Park to face Aston Villa on Saturday's early kick-off, in the English Premier League.
The 37-year-old Pires made his debut for Villa during last week's 2-0 defeat at Blackburn after joining the club as a free agent a little over a week ago. It'll be an emotional moment for him and Arsenal when he runs out to face his former club on Saturday. He joined Arsenal in 2000 and spent six glorious years at Highbury scoring 84 goals in 284 appearances and was a part of the 'Invincibles' squad of 2003/04 season.
Villa are in a bit of a tight spot having won just one of their last eight games. What will worry Gerard Houllier most is the fact that his team can't seem to hold onto a lead and have dropped 12 points so far this season, after surrendering a winning position. However, they are yet to lose at home this season, drawing four and winning three at the Villa Park.
Arsenal are in the midst of a crisis themselves. They're showing the same follies of previous seasons where they fail to stitch together a winning-run. They won impressively at Everton two weeks back, but failed to capitalize on the momentum losing to a second-half Spurs comeback last week before succumbing 2-0 to Braga in the Champions League.
After losing back-to-back home games, the Gunners will be relieved to play away at Villa Park, where they have not lost in 12 years. They are the best team on the road this season, losing just once while gaining 14 points of a possible 21. They will be boosted by the return of Van Persie, though the loss of skipper Cesc Fabregas will be a heavy blow.
Villa are boosted by the return of James Collins and John Carew. However, Beye and Hogg are both doubtful after suffering ankle injuries at Blackburn. Albrighton, Cuellar, Delph, Heskey, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Sidwell and Weimann all are out injured.
Van Persie's return will be a boost for Arsenal. However, the loss of Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Eboue means their midfield will be tested. Gael Clichy will be a doubt with a back injury, while Diaby, Frimpong, Fabregas and Vermaelen are all injured.
Table Position -
Villa currently lies 13th in the table. A win, depending on other results, can see them rise up to 7th in the table while a loss can send them pummeling down near the relegation zone.
Arsenal are currently in the 3rd position in the table. A win, coupled with loses for Chelsea and Manchester United can see them lead the table for the first time this season. However, a loss coupled with a Manchester City win can push them down to fourth.
Villa's only victory against the Gunners in the last 23 league matches was 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium in November 2008. Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 11 league visits to Villa Park since a 3-2 defeat in December 1998.
Both sides need a win desperately. However, both can prove dangerous on the counter. The loss of Marc Albrighton is a big blow to Villa, while the same can be said about Fabregas for Arsenal. It will be a hard fought encounter, and a 1-1 draw seems probable.