Premier League preview: Arsenal v Aston Villa
By Football News
Aston Villa loom as the next potential banana skin for Arsenal in what has already been a horror week for the London club.
Arsenal were eliminated from the FA Cup last week by the Championship's Blackburn Rovers, before Bayern Munich thumped Arsene Wenger's side 3-1 in their UEFA Champions League Round-of-16 first leg on Tuesday.
French attacking midfielder Charles N'Zogbia looks set to recover from a knock he received in Aston Villa's last match - a 2-1 English Premier League win over West Ham on February 10 - and with the Birmingham club having moved out of the relegation zone, they are looking forward to taking on Arsenal.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has labelled his side's run in to the end of the season as '12 cup finals' as they attempt to avoid relegation.
Saturday's trip to London will be crucial as Lambert's team attempt to continue a relatively positive 2013 and try to increase their gap over the Premier League's bottom three of Reading, Wigan Athletic and Queens Park Rangers, which stands at one point.
Aston Villa have claimed one win and three draws in their six Premier League fixtures this year, while also winning two more matches in England's cup competitions in 2013.
A third loss in a row at home for Arsenal would be a huge body blow for the London club and their manager Wenger. Arsenal were pulled apart by Bayern on Tuesday, as the Bundesliga leaders took a two-goal lead back to Germany for the Round of 16 second leg on March 14.
Wenger, who bullishly claimed before the Bayern game he deserved more respect despite the FA Cup elimination at the hands of Blackburn, was more contrite following Tuesday's loss, conceding he faced an 'impossible' task of turning the Champions League tie around. The 63-year-old Frenchman also claimed his players lacked confidence as they were effectively eliminated from the last competition they had a chance of winning. Arsenal have not won a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.
Lambert's team head to the Emirates on the back of a 3-3 draw away to Everton and the victory over West Ham with N'Zogbia and Christian Benteke leading the way for Villa. N'Zogbia scored a cracking free-kick in the win over West Ham, while also setting up one of Benteke's goals in the draw against Everton.
Benteke has been a revelation for Aston Villa this season, scoring 11 of his team's 25 goals in the Premier League, including six in his past five games for the club.