Despite being heavy underdogs, this is a big game for Aston Villa. They nearly pulled off a major upset over Everton at Goodison Park three weeks ago, picked up their first win in nearly two months over West Ham at Villa Park two weeks ago, and they had a week off to enjoy the victory, work out the kinks, get the new signings integrated and (hopefully) continue to grow in confidence. Manchester City is next on the docket and it's really tough to see Villa getting anything from that one, so the importance of a positive result here cannot be overstated.
Villa might be out of the relegation zone but they're far from out of the fight, which means we'll still be checking in on the other sides fighting to avoid the drop. I know, I don't like it any more than you do, but this is reality and we've just got to accept it. Last placed QPR seem to have it the worst as they host league leaders Manchester United at Loftus Road. United has another week and a half to prepare for their second leg against Real Madrid so there's no real incentive for them to play a weakened side here, but QPR has managed to make it tough on a few of the other big boys this season.
Newcastle and Southampton face off on Sunday in a game that could see the winner take a significant step towards safety and the loser get dragged right back down into the muck. Depending on how the rest of the results break, a draw could potentially be the best outcome for Villa because the more teams there are involved in the dogfight the better the odds of escaping it. And of course, by far the biggest game as it relates to the relegation battle this weekend is going on at the same time as Arsenal Villa, with Reading hosting Wigan. Villa's goal difference doesn't look nearly as bad as it did a few weeks ago but it's still the worst in the league, so even a draw could see them fall back into the bottom three if Reading manage a win.
Of course, all of that stuff will seem a lot less important if Villa can pull of a stunner at the Emirates. It's not impossible. Let's do it, boys. UTV.
Arsenal Starting XI: Wojciech Szczesny, Carl Jenkinson, Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen, Nacho Monreal, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Abou Diaby
Arsenal subs (from): Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Vito Mannone, Gervinho
Aston Villa Starting XI: Brad Guzan, Matthew Lowton, Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker, Joe Bennett, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph, Gabby Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann, Charles N'Zogbia, Christian Benteke
Villa subs (from): Andy Marshall, Karim El Ahmadi, Brett Holman, Yacouba Sylla, Jordan Bowery, Simon Dawkins, Eric Lichaj