Thomas Vermaelen believes Aston Villa are tricky opponents for the opening weekend of the new Premier League season.

The Arsenal captain, who will miss Saturday's game with a back injury, says that Paul Lambert's much-improved visitors are a dangerous proposition - as they showed when losing narrowly at Emirates Stadium in February.

"It’ll be great to get the season underway, and I think Villa will give us a really good test," Vermaelen told the official matchday programme.

Matchday programme

Read more from Thomas in the Aston Villa programme

"They were in trouble for a long time last season but picked up well towards the end. I remember playing them quite late on and they gave us a difficult game, with Santi scoring a late winner for us.

"They used a lot of young players and as a result had difficulties early on, but we can see what a talented team they have. My Belgium team-mate, Christian Benteke, adapted really quickly to the league last season and will be looking to start this one well too.

"But that’s what we want ourselves - a good start, three points and a nice performance that will keep everyone’s spirits high."

As for his own fitness, the skipper sounded an upbeat tone and expects to be back in the famous red and white before too long.

"I’m doing well at the moment and my recovery is going exactly as we’d hoped," he said.

"I’m working hard, doing long days with our physios, and hope to start running again next week. If everything goes well, I’ll need a few weeks after that to get fit again."

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Nick Ames 16 Aug 2013