Aston Villa travel to Molineux on Sunday to face Wolves. While Villa supporters often presume we'll prevail over our West Midlands rivals (do we really even consider them rivals?), both matches ended in a draw last season. Wolves won their home opener against Stoke, but have yet to add another home win. This is the team that needed 123 minutes to find an equalizer against Southend (League Two) and extra time to finally turn it on against Notts County (League One). Last week Wolves took a lead against Spurs well into the second half, only to lose 3-1 at White Heart Lane.
As for Villa, well, we've obviously had a rocky start to the season. Two wins, over West Ham and Everton. One draw, against Bolton. And two losses, both away, one to Newcastle and one to Stoke. Villa have dropped out of Europa, but came back from behind to win their first Carling Cup tie against Blackburn.
So where does that leave Villa on Sunday?
The Villa will be facing a physical side, which, when it comes to Wolves, is almost like saying the grass is green, but this side has already collected 23 bookings in the season. Plus, Captain Karl Henry broke a guy's leg. At this point, I'm just hoping to leave Wolverhampton with all Villa limbs intact.
Speaking of limbs, the squad is still facing that contagious dead-leg malady, with Ciaran Clark and Stephen Ireland both struck down. Ireland will have a late fitness test, as will Gabriel Agbonlahor, who just can't seem to get over his calf strain.
With Gabby still hurting, and Emile Heskey coming off his (quite frankly astonishing) play midweek, I'm guessing we see Heskey up front with Ashley Young playing behind. Stewart Downing has recovered from the gash in his shin, so it is likely that he and Marc Albrighton will take the wings, leaving us only to wonder if we get the good elf or the bad elf. Albrighton will likely be rattled by the physicality of the Wolves play, so I'm almost hoping Ireland is out and Reo-Coker is in. The less defending Albrighton has to do at this point, the better.
As for the Villa defense, we knew Richard Dunne (or Dunn, if you're a Guardian writer, well done guys) would be out with a knee problem. Fortunately, we have an adequate replacement in Carlos Cuellar, although Cuellar needs to calm himself down and not commit so many near-fouls this weekend. Otherwise, it's Stephen Warnock, James Collins, and Luke Young, and unless Gérard Houllier has some sort of vision that I can't even comprehend, this is what our starting defense will continue to be, barring injuries.
It's Houllier's first Premier League game in charge and I'm looking forward to seeing what sorts of changes he makes. I don't tend to believe that a manager has an overwhelming effect on a team's play, at least not over a short period of time, but I'd love to be surprised.
What do you guys want from tomorrow? Unfortunately, I'm expecting a draw.