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Aston Villa v Wolves preview: Battle of the bastards

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Dirty, gritty, meaningful. It’s Villa vs Wolves

Aston Villa v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship
This man should be back!
Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers have found themselves pulled into a toxic rivalry once more, likely due to the latter’s new found relevance in the football world.

No matter what you think of Wolves off of the pitch, they really are the business when it comes down to it on the pitch. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side play good football, the best football. However, the White-House levels of cronyism behind the scenes might be too off-putting for the mainstream, with agent Jorge Mendes holding a great deal of influence over at Molineux.

Still, good football is good football, and that’s what Wolves will bring to Villa Park as they look for a victory that will surely cement the Football League Championship title into their hands.

Aston Villa are probably one of the better equipped teams right now in the league, and thus - have the tools to stop Wolves - a side that gave them a proper mauling back in 2017 when the season was starting. Now, meters from the finish line, we have a situation where both teams can do some serious damage to each other. Wolverhampton could kill Villa’s bid for automatic promotion, while Villa could raise some questions about the supposed dominance of Wolves, and offer Neil Warnock’s Cardiff a platform to make a last-minute raid to close a six-point gap at the top.

In terms of the team, we might see a familiar line up as Villa bring in two banks of four, led by a returning Jack Grealish with a revolutionary Lewis Grabban up top. Grabban has saved Villa’s skin over the course of the past few games and may replace Scott Hogan. Grealish should be a gamechanger, and is the best player in the league. My bias is clear, but the Villa graduate offers so much to this team, that it is almost unbelievable that he’s the same man as a year ago. James Chester will look to build upon a season-best performance against Sunderland,

At the back, Wolves will be tough to break down. Three defenders against a sole striker? It’s not often that the lone man gets the best of the back-trio. We’ll have to trust Jack Grealish to support Grabban (or Hogan) and really bring the game to Wolves. It’ll be the striker who will be the focus, and he’ll need to be a handful on the day.

Mile Jedinak will be a key player for AVFC, and will be needed. He’ll have to block off passing channels, keep Villa’s line tight and ensure Villa aren’t runover on the break. Birkir Bjarnason might have the energy, but it’s probably safer to go with Jedinak’s experience. Either or - we won’t lose out that much.

Ruben Neves returns and with Jota, Cavaleiro, Afobe and others - they aren’t pushovers. This will be a true test of not just Aston Villa’s promotion credentials, but of their ability to survive if the leap to the Premier League is successful. This Wolves team are nothing if not top-tier quality.

So why not turn them over? Let’s do it.