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Preview: Aston Villa vs. Arsenal

Sports Mole previews the Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park.

Aston Villa will look to end their club-record 14-match winless run in the Premier League when they host Arsenal at Villa Park on Sunday.

The Gunners are flying high after reaching the knockout stage of the Champions League and will be eyeing another victory in their clash against Remi Garde's men.


Aston Villa

Remi Garde, Manager of Aston Villa gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park on November 8, 2015 in Birmingham, England. © Getty Images

Villa have endured a miserable campaign in the Premier League as they have not recorded a victory since the opening day of the season.

The club are seven points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table and the gap could widen before they take to the pitch against the Gunners on Sunday.

However, Garde's side did show a spark in their 1-1 draw against Southampton last week, and came close to earning the three points before Oriol Romeu's goal denied them victory.

Villa's problems this season have stemmed from their vulnerability at the back as they have kept just two clean sheets in their 15 matches, the last of which came against Manchester City last month.

Only Newcastle United, Bournemouth and Sunderland have conceded more than the Midlands club's 28 goals in the Premier League this term.

Villa have also struggled immensely at the other end of the pitch, being the joint-lowest scorers in the division with Stoke City on 13 goals. Jordan Ayew is the club's leading marksman this season with three goals.

Garde will be determined to improve his side's form at home to keep them in with a chance of remaining in the division. Villa have taken just two points from their seven matches at Villa Park this season, and beating his former club could kickstart a revival under the Frenchman.

Recent form: LLDLLD
Recent form (all competitions): LLDLLD


Arsenal

Manager Arsene Wenger of Arsenal celebrates after Olivier Giroud of Arsenal scored the third goal and his hat-trick during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Olympiacos FC and Arsenal FC at Karaiskakis Stadium on December 9, 2015 in Piraeus, © Getty Images

The Gunners will be buoyant after securing their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a resounding 3-0 win over Olympiacos in Greece.

Wenger's side needed to produce a flawless performance and delivered in style as Olivier Giroud netted a hat-trick to ensure that his team would advance to the knockout stage of the competition.

Arsenal will now turn their attentions back to the Premier League where they will be determined to end their 12-year drought for the top-flight crown.

The Gunners managed to overcome a stubborn Sunderland side to claim a 3-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium to move above Manchester City in second place in the table, two points behind leaders Leicester City.

The victory over the Black Cats will have pleased Wenger as his side ended a run of three games without a win, despite the absences of Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla along with other key players.

The Frenchman will be eyeing finishing the calendar year in top spot as crucial games await his team over the festive period, and Giroud has found his form at the right time for Arsenal to boost the fourth-most potent attack in the Premier League.

Arsenal have scored 27 goals in their 15 matches this term, but have also been resolute at the back, shipping just 13 strikes and keeping six clean sheets. However, the club's last shutout came in October against Swansea City, a run which Wenger will be determined to end.

The Gunners have been the second-best team on the road this season, losing just twice on their travels against Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion. They will be looking to continue their good form to move temporarily top of the table by claiming three points at Villa Park.

Recent form: WWDLDW
Recent form (all competitions): DLWDWW


Team News

Jack Grealish of Aston Villa looks on during a warm- up prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Stoke City at Villa Park on October 3, 2015© Getty Images

Garde could recall midfielder Jack Grealish to the starting lineup after the 20-year-old was left out of the team for two matches as punishment for his off-the-field behaviour.

Leandro Bacuna and Rudy Gestede are both fit despite suffering knocks last week, but Micah Richards is likely to miss the match due to knee injury, with Joleon Lescott poised to continue in the back four. Garde will also be without long-term injury victim Jordan Amavi.

Wenger could choose to rotate his side following their exploits in midweek in Greece, but does have limited options due to the club's lengthy injury list.

Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Danny Welbeck, Francis Coquelin, Tomas Rosicky, Cazorla and Sanchez are all sidelined for the contest at Villa Park.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs could earn recalls to the starting lineup after missing out in midweek as Wenger may rest Nacho Monreal and Theo Walcott ahead of a busy month of action.

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Hutton, Okore, Lescott, Bacuna; Veretout, Sanchez, Gueye; Ayew, Gestede, Sinclair

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Flamini; Campbell, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Giroud


Head To Head

The sides last met in the FA Cup final last season when the Gunners eased to a 4-0 triumph at Wembley, which was their third victory over Villa during the 2014-15 campaign.

Wenger's men defeated Villa 5-0 at the Emirates Stadium and recorded a 3-0 victory at Villa Park earlier in the campaign.

Villa have not beaten Arsenal at home since the 1998-99 season, when a brace from Dion Dublin and a strike from Julian Joachim guided them to a 3-2 victory over the Gunners.

Over the course of history, Arsenal have edged the duel by winning 80 of the 191 matches between the sides, while Villa have won 66 games, with 45 of the contests ending in draws.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal

Villa showed signs of improvement last week, but they are still vulnerable at the back and lack a threat in the final third. As a result, Arsenal will be able to pick up the three points to continue their good week by maintaining their challenge for the Premier League title.



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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester UnitedMan Utd4310113810
2Chelsea431091810
3Liverpool431091810
4Everton4310104610
5Manchester CityMan City4301111109
6Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton43015329
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs43013309
8West Ham UnitedWest Ham422010558
9Leicester CityLeicester420246-26
10Brentford41213215
11Crystal Palace41215505
12Aston Villa411257-24
13Wolverhampton WanderersWolves410323-13
14Southampton403146-23
15Watford410337-43
16Arsenal410319-83
17Leeds UnitedLeeds4022411-72
18Burnley401338-51
19Newcastle UnitedNewcastle4013512-71
20Norwich CityNorwich4004111-100

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