Writer: Brice Coffer
Date:Saturday December 26 2009
After a handful of lackluster Boxing Day matches, Arsenal and Aston Villa have been left with the responsibility of bringing excitement to the holiday fixture schedule. With Chelsea dropping points once again, there is even more incentive for both teams.
Arsene is certainly not taking Villa lightly.
"For me December has been a U-turn for us in the League," he said. "We beat Stoke, Liverpool, Hull and drew at Burnley so we made some ground up on other teams who dropped points".
"Of course now we want to finish the month well to completely reverse the position. At the end of November nobody gave us a chance. Over the Christmas period we can show in a concrete way that we have the potential to win the title.
"And considering we are in a great position, this is as big a game [as Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea] because it is a very big opportunity for us."
Officially Cesc Fabregas is rated as 50/50, but I'm sure he'll play. Maybe more hopeful than sure. This is too big of a game to barely miss out. We're only seven points behind Chelsea with two games in hand.
Besides Cesc, only Armand Traore is back. He will slot in for Silvestre. Rosicky will be back soon, while Bendtner is 2-3 weeks away. Clichy, Gibbs, Djourou, and van Persie are all still out.
Predicted Starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traore, Song, Denilson, Fabregas, Diaby, Nasri, Arshavin
I'm going to take the easy way out here, but I honestly can't single out one individual player that needs to play exceptionally well. Everyone needs to play their best.
Villa's good run of form lately is partly down to a kind injury record for Martin O'Neill. Bouma and Davies are out, while Heskey is a slight doubt. Other than that, MON has a full crop of players to pick from.
Possible Starting XI: Friedel, L Young, Cuellar, Dunne, Warnock, A Young, Petrov, Milner, Downing, Heskey, Agbonlahor.
A move into the centre of the midfield this season has seen Milner blossom. Villa supporters are full of praise for the former Leeds man. Denilson and Song will have their hands full.
Phil Dowd will be the head official for tomorrow's match.
It's hard to give a prediction if you don't know if your inspirational young captain will be playing. But as I said earlier, I think he will play, so I'll go with that. It's going to be an epic tie, but Villa are due a defeat. 3-1 to the Arsenal. It'll be close, but Arsenal will get a third, insurance goal late on.
30/12 (Wed) - Portsmouth (a) - Premier League
3/1 (Sun) - West Ham (a) - FA Cup
6/1 (Wed) - Bolton (h) - Premier League
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Date:Saturday December 26 2009
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