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Premier League

  • November 27, 2010
  • • 7:45 AM
  • • Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Referee: M. Clattenburg
  • • Attendance: 38544

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa - Arsenal

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa - Arsenal

From Top To Bottom
A win for the away side would see them go top of the table, at least for a few hours, and could leave Villa in danger of dropping into the relegation zone.

Villa have won just two Premier League games, and a poor one in eight, since former Liverpool boss Houllier took over in October and were well beaten by Blackburn last weekend.

That wobbly run of form should give Arsenal even more confidence of picking up three points at a ground that they have been unbeaten at since 1998, while the Gunners also top the Premier League's away table this campaign with 14 points from seven trips on the road.
A Very Civil French War

Houllier faces his compatriot in the opposite dugout for the first time since 2004, when he was still in charge at Liverpool.

The long-serving Wenger marginally had the edge over the former manager of the French national side in their previous Premier League clashes, picking up four wins in comparison to his friend's three.

Houllier's Liverpool drew against Arsenal more times – five – than they beat their London rivals, and the two sides played out two scoreless draws in that time, while Wenger has not been beaten in the league by his compatriot in their last six meetings.

But the Reds of Merseyside pipped their more celebrated attacking opponents in goals scored from their league meetings, 15 to 14, giving Villa fans reason to be confident.

As will another historical moment: arguably Houllier's finest hour in English football came as his Liverpool side added their second trophy of a treble-winning 2001 season by defeating Wenger in a controversial FA Cup final at the Millennium Stadium in which Stephane Henchoz at least twice handled in the box before Michael Owen – a reported January target for the Midlands side – popped up with two late goals as Arsenal looked set to cruise to victory.

Aston Villa

Gerard Houllier is in the midst of an injury crisis with no less than 10 players either out long-term or serious doubts ahead of the game, including young winger Marc Albrighton, who will not be back until mid-December after suffering from appendicitis.

37-year-old Robert Pires may feature against his former club after coming off the bench in the defeat at Ewood Park last weekend.

Nigel Reo-Coker may return from his knee injury to ease a midfield crisis with Steve Sidwell, Stilian Petrov and Fabian Delph all long-term absentees, while Carlos Cuellar will face a fitness test to determine whether he is able to feature after straining a calf muscle.

American goalkeeper Brad Friedel will take his familiar place in the Villa net.
Possible starting XI: Friedel; L Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Pires, Ireland, Bannan, Downing; A Young; Agbonlahor.

Cesc Fabregas’ injury in defeat to Braga could not have come at a worse time for Arsene Wenger as his side are desperate to bounce back from two successive defeats in a week if they are to keep the pressure on Chelsea and Manchester United.

Arsenal will also be without Emmanuel Eboue, who picked up a serious knee injury in Portugal on Tuesday and may not figure again this year.

Gael Clichy and Abou Diaby remain doubts with back and ankle injuries respectively, so Tomas Rosicky is likely to fill one of the midfield slots.
Possible starting XI: Fabianski; Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Gibbs; Wilshere, Denilson, Rosicky; Walcott, Chamakh, Nasri.

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