Date: 25th December 2008 at 8:10pm
Written by:

On Sky

Without a few star players, Arsenal make the trek up north to Birmingham on Boxing Day to take on an upstart, third place Aston Villa. Martin O’Neal’s team came to the Emirates in November and easily dispatched a dull and complacent Arsenal side. A similar result and preformance tomorrow will see Arsenal in deep tribulation in terms of 2009 Champions League qualification.

Vital Quotes:

For some strange reason Arsene seems to feel that his club is still in the title race yet third place Villa is not. ‘Villa are mathematically in there but if you asked me if they are going to win the title I would say no because they are other teams who to me look better equipped.

‘For a place in the top four, they are a threat.

‘We are three points behind and have a good opportunity to come back on them. It is a very important game for us.’

Wenger also spoke of Cesc forthcoming injury struggle. “I believe that the really difficult period is the first six weeks,” said the manager. “You are in a brace and you cannot move at all. You cannot practice. When they take the brace off you can have rehabilitation and be busy the whole day but the first six weeks are really difficult.

“That is a massive blow for Cesc because he is a competitor who wants to play every day. If you play six games in a week he will want to play six games.”

Aston Villa Team News:

Aston Villa’s experienced defender and captain, Martin Laursen, has possibly injured his knee again and will have scans to find out the seriousness nature of the injury. He is a major doubt for the game on Boxing Day, and also Carlos Cuellar might not play as he limped off the against West Ham last match. Expect Zac Knight and Nickey Shorey to step in for the Villans.

Player to watch: Ashley Young

The Gooner at heart has been nothing short of spectacular this season for Villa. His dazzling eccentric runs have set the Premier League on fire as he looks to get Villa into the Champions League. Combining crucial goals and breathtaking assists, he has become the complete package in a winger. Look for him and Agbonlahor to trouble the Arsenal defense.

Arsenal Team News:

Arsenal has suffered another devastating injury to a vital member to the team. In our current barren period we have had lengthy spells out from many players. Injuries to Henry, van Persie, Eduardo, Rosicky, Flamini, Sagna, and many more has inhibited Arsenal from being at their best. Next on that verbose list is our new captain Cesc Fabregas. He has been declared out for the rest of the season, and a couple of Arsenal players will have to step up in his absence to insure at least 4th spot.

Compounded to this depressing news is that Adebayor will wrongly be suspended from this must win game. Walcott, Eduardo, and Rosicky are still out.

Possible Starting XI: Almunia(c), Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy, Diaby, Denilson, Song, Nasri, van Persie, Bendtner

Player to watch: Bacary Sagna

All Arsenal defenders are players to watch, but Sagna has the task of marking Ashley Young. Though this may be a dangerous tactic, I believe the best form of defense from your fullbacks will be to attack the wingers, Young and Milner, and make them defend rather than attack. Clichy and Sagna will need to track back fast though to prevent the counter attack goal.

Match Facts & Stats

Home and away

League (inc PL): Villa 59 wins, Arsenal 64, Draws 36

Prem: Villa 6 wins, Arsenal 16, Draws 11

at Villa only

League (inc PL): Villa 38 wins, Arsenal 22, Draws 19

Prem: Villa 3 wins, Arsenal 7, Draws 6

Ref Watch:

Lee Manson will be the head official for the match. He has referred seven matches this season brandishing two reds and twenty yellows. This gives him a 3.14 card per game average.

Match Prediction:

Arsenal will recognize this as a big game and will come to play. I see this being a great Boxing Day affair, but neither team walking away with full points. I will go with 2-2 with van Persie, Bendtner, Agbonlahor, and Davies scoring the goals

Next Fixtures:

28/12 (Sun)- Portsmouth (H)- Premier League

3/1 (Sat)- Plymouth (H)- FA Cup

10/1 (Sat)- Bolton (H)- Premier League

I hope everybody has had a very Merry Christmas!!