Football

Aston Villa Vs Arsenal, Wed 27 Jan 2010

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Aston Villa will be without full-back Stephen Warnock, midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker and striker John Carew for the clash against Arsenal at Villa Park.

Reo-Coker (ankle) and Carew (knee) are still struggling to shake off their problems while Warnock has failed to recover from the shin injury he suffered in the FA Cup tie against Brighton last weekend.



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Captain Stiliyan Petrov is also still being troubled by an Achilles problem, but the Bulgarian international midfielder has told manager Martin O'Neill he wants to play and is set to figure.

Brad Friedel, Carlos Cuellar, Richard Dunne, James Milner, Emile Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor, who were all left out of the starting line-up against Brighton, are all poised to return.

O'Neill has insisted he has no qualms about Arsene Wenger's selection policy at Arsenal as the two clubs prepare to meet in the Barclays Premier League.

O'Neill has generally backed homegrown talent to get Villa into the shake-up for the battle to secure a place in the Champions League.

In contrast, he could be facing a title-chasing Arsenal side that does not include a single British player.

That is not a problem as far as O'Neill is concerned, and he said: "Arsenal have had foreign players for the last six or seven years and Arsene Wenger has built upon that policy.

"There have been times when they haven't included a homegrown player but that is not an issue.

"It depends upon what happens on the field of play and Arsenal are a very fine side."

O'Neill has revenge in his sights after Villa were beaten 3-0 by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium last month and he has urged the club's supporters to again play their part to the full.

Villa are about to play a fourth successive home game and the backing of the fans helped Villa recover from a 2-0 deficit in the early stages of last week's Carling Cup semi-final against Blackburn to book their place at Wembley.

Another 40,000 gate were at Villa Park for the FA Cup tie against Brighton, and O'Neill said: "Home advantage will be a big advantage.

"The fans have been fantastic. It was a great turn out for the FA Cup game when you consider they had spent a lot of money the previous Wednesday evening for the Carling Cup semi-final against Blackburn.

"From that view point the backing is fantastic and I think what we have to do is go again.

"There have been 15 goals scored in the last two games at Villa Park so the fans are getting their monies worth in terms of the ball hitting the back of the net.

"We are capable of winning the game against Arsenal as long as we don't pick up any more serious injuries."

Arsenal will have full-back Bacary Sagna available again following a shoulder problem.

Defenders Thomas Vermaelen, William Gallas and Gael Clichy will also return having been rested for the FA Cup defeat at Stoke, but midfielder Abou Diaby (calf) remains sidelined.

Nicklas Bendtner (groin) and Samir Nasri (hamstring) are back in training but will not yet feature, while Alex Song and Emmanuel Eboue are set to return from international duty at the African Nations Cup later this week.

Robin van Persie (ankle), Kieran Gibbs (foot) and Johan Djourou (knee) are long-term absentees.

Wenger has called on his players to maintain their self-belief as the Gunners head into what could be a defining period of the Barclays Premier League campaign.

Arsenal travel to Villa before then hosting Manchester United, which is swiftly followed by the small matter of a trip to Stamford Bridge and then the visit of Liverpool.

Just two points separate the top three, although leaders United have played a game more than Arsenal and two more than Chelsea.

The Gunners, who were some 11 points adrift following home defeat by the Blues at the end of November, have hauled themselves right back into what looks set to be a classic title race following seven league wins in nine matches.

Wenger feels that strength of character can serve his young squad in good stead for the challenges ahead over the next three weeks.

"It is an exciting period for us, because we are in a very good position," said Wenger.

"We have a good level of confidence and know that with so many big games, psychologically it is important to go in with a high level of confidence, so every result has an influence on the next one.

"Is it make or break? I make it a good opportunity to strengthen our position in the league. That is how I see it."

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Topics:
Arsenal
Football
Premier League
Aston Villa
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