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Premier League

  • January 13, 2014
  • • 3:00 PM
  • • Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Referee: N. Swarbrick
  • • Attendance: 36097

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa - Arsenal

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa - Arsenal

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The hosts beat Arsene Wenger's men at the Emirates on the opening day but have managed just five more wins since and face a visiting side hoping to leapfrog Chelsea.

Few would have predicted Arsenal emerging as serious title contenders when it lost 3-1 to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season.

However, as the sides prepare to meet in the reverse fixture at Villa Park on Monday, Arsene Wenger's men have the opportunity to end another round of fixtures as leaders of the Premier League. The Gunners were knocked off top spot by Chelsea on Saturday, but know three points against Villa will secure a return to the summit.

Villa's shock victory back in August will have provided optimism for the club's fans, but Paul Lambert's men have picked up just five wins in 19 subsequent Premier League fixtures.

However, they halted a five-game winless run by triumphing 1-0 at Sunderland in their last league game. Villa will be especially keen to pick up a morale-boosting victory Monday having been dumped out of the FA Cup by League One side Sheffield United last weekend.

Arsenal's cup campaign got off to the best possible start as the club beat local rival Tottenham 2-0 on Jan. 4.

Wenger's side has also won its last three in the league, beating West Ham, Newcastle United and Cardiff City.

Arsenal is troubled by a lengthy injury list, though, and goes into the Villa game without Theo Walcott, who has been ruled out for the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, as well as Nicklas Bendtner (ankle) and Abou Diaby (knee).

Kieran Gibbs (calf) and Aaron Ramsey (thigh) remain doubtful, but Wenger is more hopeful over the potential availability of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), who has not featured since Arsenal last faced Villa.

"I wouldn't have any hesitation on playing Oxlade-Chamberlain against Aston Villa," the Frenchman said ahead of the clash.

Ron Vlaar (calf) and Nathan Baker (hamstring) face late fitness tests for Villa, while Gabriel Agbonlahor and Brad Guzan should be fit after shrugging off niggles. Chris Herd (hamstring) and Joe Bennett (back), who resumed full training on Friday, are likely to remain sidelined. Libor Kozak (broken leg), Jores Okore (knee) and Charles N'Zogbia (Achilles) are long-term absentees.

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