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Arsenal vs. Aston Villa, lineups + open match thread: Welcome back, football!

Aston Villa is playing a game that matters. Time to get excited, folks.

Jan Kruger

Welcome one and all to another thrilling season of Aston Villa Football Club action! As you're doubtlessly aware, the 2013-14 campaign kicks off with a tricky fixture against Arsenal at the Emirates. Things don't get much easier for Villa with a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on tap mid-week and Liverpool making the trek to Birmingham next Saturday, so picking up a point or three in this game would be a more welcome start to the season than usual.

The Gunners are expected to be missing Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta, Nacho Monreal and Abou Diaby, while Villa will be forced to make due without Yacouba Sylla and, uh, Chris Herd I guess. That's a solid advantage to Villa in terms of the injury situation, but on the balance of things they've still got quite the hill to climb. A result would be pretty tremendous, but a strong showing even in a losing effort would be just fine as well.

The mood of the supporters seems positive, and the expectations are reasonable but firm. This rebuilding process isn't yet finished, but all but the most unreasonable Villa fans recognize that there will be bumps along the way. But right now, in this moment, it's all but impossible to have a whole lot of hope. Today begins yet another journey on the Good Ship Villa, everyone. Let's hope this ride is a little but smoother than the last few.

Arsenal Starting XI: Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud

Substitutes (from): Lukasz Fabianski, Carl Jenkinson, Emmanuel Frimpong, Santi Cazorla, Serge Gnabry, Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo

Aston Villa Starting XI: Brad Guzan, Matthew Lowton, Ron Vlaar, Nathan Baker, Antonio Luna, Karim El Ahmadi, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph, Gabby Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke, Andi Weimann

Substitutes (from):  Jed Steer, Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Leandro Bacuna, Nicklas Helenius, Jordan Bowery, Aleksandar Tonev