|Aston Villa were out of sorts when they visited the Emirates earlier in the season, they have all it takes to take Arsenal on in the second leg, who will come out tops? (Photo credit: Sky Sports)|
vs ArsenalVilla Park1:30pm
Steven Gerrard has lots of stories to tell when it comes to fixtures against Arsenal. There are lots of the good, the bad and the damn right ugly ones and as he takes to the dugout against the Gunners on Saturday for the first time as a manager, he’d hope for one of those good old days.
Arsenal tasted defeat for the first time in six games on Wednesday when they hosted Liverpool and it was a game they’d take on a chin after a spirited performance, in the end the game was decided by moments of quality in the box according to the Arsenal manager.
Aston Villa are pushing for a strong finish, they’re completely out of the relegation scraps and will certainly not be drawn to it again this term regardless of what happens here but a win against a top side will only give them the confidence required to push higher on the table.
Arsenal on the other hand have it all to prove. The Gunners remain the firm favorites for the fourth spot, leading Manchester by a point but with two games in hand and those two games, are against Chelsea and another top four hopeful, Tottenham.
The loss to Liverpool didn’t damage Arsenal’s hopes, instead you expect them to come at Villa and fight for the entire three on offer, they can’t afford to drop points at Villa Park and with Spurs and Westham going up against each other on Sunday, this is Arsenal’s chance to get that breathing space on the rest.
Manchester United are not playing this weekend due to the FA Cup involvements of their supposed opponents for this weekend, this means the Gunners can go clear of them to the tune of four points, that’s enough motivation to get things right at Villa Park.
Aston Villa can win this and steer clear of Southampton and Palace, they’re not close to Wolves in eighth but they have two games in hand on their midland rivals, they have enough quality in their squad to give a good fight, they just must take their chances.
Villa completed a double over the Gunners last season, a sensational 3-0 success at the Emirates and a scrappy 1-0 win in the reverse fixture would give confidence to Steven Gerrard’s side but they limped to a 3-1 defeat at home to the Gunners in the first leg this season.
It won’t be an easy game at Villa Park on Saturday, both sides will have to fight for what they want and it would be entertaining to the neutrals. Watch out for the duel between Matty Cash and Gabriel Martinelli, Phillippe Coutinho in the middle against Thomas Partey as well as Bukayo Saka on the wings.