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Arsenal at Aston Villa preview: down to the wire

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Both clubs still have something to play for tomorrow.

Arsenal v Manchester City - FA Cup: Semi Final Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Two Premier League matches left this season. Arsenal head to Aston Villa on Tuesday to face a side desperate for points to stay up. The Gunners are riding high on the back of wins against Liverpool and Manchester City last week. So let’s do some table-gazing because it’s one of my favorite things and with matches against Aston Villa and Watford, Arsenal are going to play a big role in determining who stays up and who goes down.

For the Europa League places — Arsenal still need help. Everton beating Sheffield United was just that. Of the teams ahead of the Gunners, Arsenal control their destiny with respect to finishing ahead of Burnley and Sheffield United. Wolves remain in the driver’s seat for 7th, needing 4 points to assure themselves finishing ahead of Arsenal. Wolves are playing Crystal Palace at time of writing and have Chelsea in the final match of the season. Arsenal have to hope that the Blues, with a Champions League place on the line, will beat Wolves. The Gunners will also need to make up a three-goal goal-difference gap.

And at the bottom of the table — Aston Villa are on 31 points in 18th place with matches against Arsenal and West Ham remaining. Watford (who just fired their manager) are on 34 points in 17th place with matches against Manchester City and Arsenal to play. Watford’s goal difference is four better than Villa’s. City hung eight on Watford back in September and have been lighting up the scoreboard in recent weeks, so it’s a decent bet that they will narrow that goal difference gap, if not erase it altogether. West Ham are all but assured safety already (and will be safe if Villa don’t beat Arsenal), so they probably won’t have much to play for on the final matchday.

Arsenal will be without the services of Shkodran Mustafi, who picked up a hamstring injury against Manchester City that is still being evaluated to determine the severity. Eddie Nketiah is back available after serving his red card suspension, and I expect him to start. Cedric Soares, who missed out against City because he was cup-tied, should start tomorrow as well. Mesut Özil has recovered from his back ailment and is available for selection, but I doubt he makes the matchday squad. Matteo Guendouzi is still in disciplinary exile. The long-term injuries are unchanged.

Check out Nathan’s predicted 11 for tomorrow’s match. Mikel Arteta is likely to rotate the squad for tomorrow’s match, but with a 7th place finish still in the cards, the question is how many changes will he make.

Aston Villa will be without long-term absentees Wesley, Thomas Heaton, and Bjorn Engels. Neil Taylor will miss out with a hamstring injury. Preferred right-back Kortney Hause has been deemed fit and is available for selection.

Arsenal and Villa played a wild one back in September at the Emirates. Villa went up 1-0 early, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles received a straight red as the first half was drawing to a close. Arsenal equalized on a Nicolas Pépé penalty only to concede a minute later. Post 80th-minute goals from Calum Chambers and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang earned full points for the Gunners.

As with all the matches from Unai Emery’s tenure, I don’t think there is much there to inform tomorrow’s matchup. Aston Villa are a desperate team, and I expect them to be fully up for the match. Arsenal are running hot and still have a chance at Europa League qualification through table finish.

Tomorrow’s match should be a good one.

WHAT: Arsenal at Aston Villa
WHERE: Villa Park
WHEN: 12:15 PM PT | 3:15 PM ET | 8:15 PM BT
US TV: NBCSN.

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