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Preview: Aston Villa vs. Arsenal - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Arsenal, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Aston Villa and Arsenal will both be aiming to bounce back from demoralising defeats in midweek when they kick off Premier League gameweek 23 at Villa Park on Saturday lunchtime.

The hosts were put to the sword by West Ham United on their own turf last time out, whereas Arsenal lost in the league for the first time in 2021 at Wolverhampton Wanderers.


Match preview

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith pictured on January 1, 2021© Reuters

West Ham were given a helping hand by two uncharacteristic mistakes from Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez in midweek, but the Hammers fully merited their 3-1 win over a beleaguered Aston Villa team.

The Argentine goalkeeper would have expected to save both of Jesse Lingard's goals on the night, but the West Ham new boy managed to get the better of his opponent twice after the prolific Tomas Soucek had already opened the scoring, and Ollie Watkins's ninth goal of the season did little to lift Dean Smith's spirits.

Martinez will certainly hope to put that underwhelming performance behind him as he gears up to face his former club on Saturday, where a win would do wonders for Villa's European prospects after a spell of inconsistent form in the top flight.

Smith's men have only taken maximum points from two of their last seven matches in the Premier League and now find themselves six points adrift of West Ham in fifth, but something has to give when seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur take on eighth-placed Chelsea on Thursday, so a win for Villa over Arsenal would see them leapfrog at least one of those teams depending on the outcome of that London derby.

Smith's loyalty to a small crop of regular first-team players could end up proving costly as fatigue sets in - the likes of Ross Barkley and John McGinn did not produce their most fruitful performances against West Ham - and the Villa boss will be expected to shuffle the pack against an Arsenal side who also have a point to prove.

David Luiz is sent off for Arsenal against Wolverhampton Wanderers on February 2, 2021© Reuters

David Luiz giving away penalties and being brandished from the field of play is nothing new, but the Brazilian had every right to feel hard done by against Wolves in midweek.

Mikel Arteta's men were well on top and took a deserved lead through Nicolas Pepe's opener, but Luiz was adjudged to have fouled Willian Jose in the area on the stroke of half time, and the former Chelsea man was given a straight red card for the third time as an Arsenal player before Ruben Neves slotted home.

There was no air of controversy surrounding Joao Moutinho's spectacular winner in the second half, and any hopes of an Arsenal comeback were quickly dashed when Bernd Leno handled outside the area and was also given his marching orders.

Several Gunners players took to social media to voice their dismay after the match, with Luiz labelling his sending off as "unbelievable", but Arteta's men cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves and must aim to get back on track straight away.

The visitors had strung together a seven-game unbeaten run in the top flight - five wins and two draws - before their torrid evening at Molineux, but that defeat has seen them slump to 10th in the table and they are now nine points adrift of the Champions League places.

Arteta's men could potentially rise as high as seventh with a win depending on Thursday's result, although that scenario is highly unlikely given Spurs' and Chelsea's superior goal difference, and Villa have come out on top in the last two meetings between the two clubs.

Aston Villa Premier League form: LLWLWL
Aston Villa form (all competitions): LLWLWL

Arsenal Premier League form: WDWWDL
Arsenal form (all competitions): DWLWDL



Team News

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring against Newcastle on January 18, 2021© Reuters

Villa only have two injury concerns in the form of Wesley and Kortney Hause, but it would be a surprise not to see Smith make some alterations amid a taxing schedule.

The hosts hauled off Anwar El Ghazi for Bertrand Traore at half time against West Ham and the latter should start out wide here, while new arrival Morgan Sanson could feature from the first whistle over Barkley.

Jack Grealish notched up his 12th assist of the top-flight campaign with his delightful pass for Watkins's goal on Wednesday - no player in the top flight has set up more goals than the 25-year-old this season.

With Leno suspended for Arsenal and Mat Ryan just coming back from a hip problem, Runar Alex Runarsson could make his first Premier League start for the club at Villa Park.

Luiz will be replaced in the heart of defence by Gabriel Magalhaes, who will hope to force his way back into the first team on a regular basis from now on, but Arteta conceded that Kieran Tierney "was not close at all" to being ready for the Wolves game.

The Arsenal boss has a huge call to make on the left-hand side with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang now back in action, but Pepe has stepped up his game in recent weeks and it would be extremely harsh to drop him.

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn; Traore, Sanson, Grealish; Watkins

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Runarsson; Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Cedric; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Smith Rowe, Pepe; Lacazette


SM words green background

We say: Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal

Arsenal could and probably should have scored more against Wolves before Luiz's controversial sending-off changed the course of the game, and Arteta will be demanding an immediate response from his players here. Villa's expected rotation should aid their efforts this weekend, but the Gunners have undoubtedly improved notwithstanding their calamitous evening at Molineux, so we are backing the visitors to be the ones to return to winning ways.


Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data



Video prediction

Watch the Sports Mole Football Shorts prediction for this game below:


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David Luiz is sent off for Arsenal against Wolverhampton Wanderers on February 2, 2021
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool64201541114
2Manchester CityMan City64111211113
3Chelsea64111221013
4Manchester UnitedMan Utd6411135813
5Everton6411127513
6Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton540174312
7West Ham UnitedWest Ham6321138511
8Aston Villa631297210
9Brentford62318539
10Tottenham HotspurSpurs530236-39
11Watford621379-27
12Leicester CityLeicester6213710-37
13Arsenal520329-76
14Crystal Palace512258-35
15Southampton504146-24
16Wolverhampton WanderersWolves510425-33
17Newcastle UnitedNewcastle6033714-73
18Leeds UnitedLeeds6033614-83
19Burnley6024511-62
20Norwich CityNorwich6006216-140

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