Joe Montemurro's side are coming off the back of a truly dreadful week in which they lost to both Manchester City and Chelsea and slipped seven points behind Manchester United and UEFA Champions League qualification. The Australian coach is under mounting pressure and will be desperate for a win in what is their last game before the international break.
Standing in Arsenal's way is an Aston Villa side in great spirits having seen off Tottenham Hotspur in a narrow win following another outstanding performance from new signing Mana Iwabuchi. It was the Birmingham side's first win in almost two months and a timely one, taking them four points clear of a resurgent Bristol City side occupying the relegation spot. The Villans, unlike their opponents, did not play in the midweek as their derby match with Birmingham City was postponed five minutes before kick-off due to a frozen pitch.
The Villans are likely to start with a similar line up to the one they put out against Spurs. None of the injured trio of Chloe Arthur, Ramona Petzelberger and Shania Hayles are expected to feature after interim boss Marcus Bignot ruled them out until after the international break. Villa will be hoping for another resolute defensive performance following their third clean sheet of the season last weekend, but it will be a tall order as they come up against the free scoring Gunners.
Despite their losses in the last week, Arsenal have been boosted by the return of injured duo of Noelle Maritz and Jordan Nobbs. Particularly the return of England international will be very welcome for the Gunners, having missed nearly two months of football prior to her substitute appearance on Wednesday.
However, Arsenal are still expected to be missing centre-back Jen Beattie and Midfielder Kim Little after injuries they picked up in the last week. Perhaps worst of all, Caitlin Foord is also expected to miss the game following the knee injury she suffered prior to the Chelsea match. Foord has arguably been the Gunners best player this season, notching up an impressive seven goals and five assists this season.
Aston Villa predicted XI: Weiß (gk), N'Dow, Asante, Haigh, Ale, Iwabuchi, Hanssen, Ewers, Hutton, Silva, Larsen
Arsenal predicted XI: Zinsberger (gk), Maritz, Williamson, Wubben-Moy, McCabe, van de Donk, Wälti, Roord, Nobbs, Miedema, Mead
Ones to watch
Since her introduction at the turn of the year, Mana Iwabuchi has had a transformative effect on Villa. All three of Villa's goals since her arrival have been scored or assisted by the Japanese international (two goals, one assist). Last week she demonstrated her outrageous ability when she scored a goal of the season contender to win the match against Tottenham. If Villa are going to carry any threat going forward in a game they will spend the majority of defending, it will have to come through Iwabuchi.
Having not scored in either of her last two games, and her seeing place at the top of the scoring charts under threat, Vivianne Miedema will be raring to score and put a rough start to 2021 behind her. The Dutch star has scored twelve goals this season and is two ahead of her biggest threat in Sam Kerr. More concerning still for the Aston Villa defence is the stat that, outside matches against the top three, Miedema has scored eleven goals in eight appearances. With the return of Nobbs to an already lethal Arsenal attack, Miedema will be looking to add to her tally this weekend.
Having only been promoted last season from the Women's Championship, Aston Villa and Arsenal have never met each other in a competitive match.
How to watch
The match kicks off on Sunday at Banks's Stadium at 2:00 PM GMT.
The match will stream live, both nationally and internationally on the FA Player.