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It was an emotional occasion at the London Stadium last Sunday, but unfortunately for Aston Villa, there was little joy to be had, as top-four chasing West Ham abruptly ended the Lions’ three-game winning streak with a 2-1 success on their own turf.
Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko caused a few tears as he opened the scoring in clinical fashion in the 70th minute before Pablo Fornals seemingly made sure of the result with eight minutes remaining, although Jacob Ramsey struck a sublime late consolation to make things interesting.
However, Villa’s three-game winning run with three clean sheets in tow before the West Ham loss has seen Gerrard’s men cement their position in the top half of the Premier League table, with the Lions sitting pretty in ninth at the time of writing.
Gerrard’s crop may have put four unanswered goals past Southampton during their last game at Villa Park, but performances at home have been rather hard to come by for the West Midlands side, who had previously gone four without a win on their own turf before the Saints paid a visit.
Villa have developed something of a penchant for lunchtime kickoffs, though – winning each of their last four 12:30pm Saturday encounters – and Mikel Arteta is less than happy with the Gunners’ lack of recovery time for the early journey.
Villa left-back Lucas Digne lasted a mere 10 minutes against West Ham before being taken off with a muscle issue and has been ruled out of this battle, with Kortney Hause also absent due to an abdominal issue.
Douglas Luiz and ex-Gunner Calum Chambers both left the pitch with facial injuries after the win over West Ham – with the former needing to undergo surgery – and Gerrard may not be prepared to risk either man from the off here.
Ashley Young is set to deputise for Digne on the left-hand side, but with Marvelous Nakamba still absent, Gerrard may be forced to turn to Morgan Sanson to fill the void in the engine room.
Meanwhile, Arsenal did not pick up any fresh concerns in the defeat to Liverpool, with Takehiro Tomiyasu (calf) still a doubt after being left out of the Japan squad for March’s World Cup qualifiers.
Arteta will certainly ponder changes given the quick turnaround, with Gabriel Martinelli – who ran himself into the ground on Wednesday night – possibly making way for Emile Smith Rowe.
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Nicolas Pepe, Eddie Nketiah and Albert Sambi Lokonga are waiting patiently for their opportunities, but Arteta may demand another 90 minutes from most of his big-hitters before the international break.
Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Young; McGinn, Sanson, Ramsey; Coutinho; Ings, Watkins
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Ramsdale; Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Xhaka, Partey; Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe; Lacazette