Two teams that really could do with a three-point boost in the Premier League are Arsenal and Aston Villa, and the pair do battle at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. With the Gunners in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification and Premier League betting odds shortening on Villa getting relegated, both sides will pray for a positive result at the weekend.
Arsenal have had a poor week; they were firstly eliminated from the FA Cup by Championship side Blackburn and then thoroughly outplayed and beaten by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. With a 3-1 deficit to overhaul at the Allianz Arena the north London side’s European adventure looks dead in the water, and they are not guaranteed to get another chance in the competition next season.
Arsene Wenger’s men sit four points behind north London rivals Tottenham, who occupy the all-important final Champions League qualification berth; Arsenal will be keen to keep the pressure on their old enemies. Spurs capitulated at the end of last term, allowing Arsenal to overtake them in the run-in, and a similar scenario is necessary if the Gunners are to avoid participation in the Europa League next year.
Finding out which European competition you will be playing in next season is not a problem for Aston Villa, who are playing for their Premier League lives currently. Paul Lambert has had a disastrous last two months since their 8-0 drubbing against Chelsea at the turn of the year, with the players’ confidence at rock bottom.
At present the Villa Park club sit in 17th place, one point above Reading and the relegation zone, and the club’s fans know their side is in a real scrap to stay in the division. With young impressionable players not delivering to their potential, Villa look like a side that could be heading for the Championship.
The Birmingham-based visitors will rely on gifted attackers Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann to get the goals that could cause a shock upset against Arsenal, but the problem will be at the other end. Villa have conceded 50 goals in the division this season, and with Arsenal looking to make amends after two defeats, the away team could well suffer here.
Both managers are feeling the strain, with different objectives looking difficult to obtain. Arsenal fans will be outraged if they fail to qualify for the Champions League, while Villa’s followers will not want to slip to the second-tier of English football for the first time since the start of the Premier League.