Wow! What a week it has been for Aston Villa Football Club. We started on Saturday, demolishing a very dangerous Brighton side 6-1. Who saw that coming?
Move onto Thursday and we got the news that our prolific Ollie Watkins had been recalled into Gareth Southgate’s England team. Fans were, however, as I was myself, disappointed to learn that Ezri Konsa did not earn his first call-up to the national team. He has to be banging on the door, what more can he do?
Later that day, a moment that all Villa fans will never forget. European football was back and was back with a bang after the crowd erupted following a 90+4th minute winner from who else but our skipper, super John McGinn. I was in the Holte for this one and it is one of them where you will always remember ‘that’ McGinn header. In fact, he now has two memorable headers after his goal in the Championship Play-Off Final win over Derby. Big game player.
And just to cap things off, following his recall to the England squad, Ollie Watkins, on Friday afternoon, finally put pen to paper and completed the signing of his new long-term contract with the club. Phew. Ollie didn’t have a bad week, did he…
On Sunday afternoon, focus returns to the Premier League as we have our first Midlands derby of the season as Unai Emery’s men travel to Molineux.
Looking at some facts before heading into this one and they do slightly go in Wolverhampton’s favour. Wolves are unbeaten in the last four meetings between the two sides, with them winning three times. Look away Villa fans, as we head into this one losing five of our last six league matches at Molineux.
However, this is a Villa team who are much stronger than previous seasons, so the stats do not have one single bit of influence on the result, come 4:00pm Sunday afternoon. Will it be Wolves who bark the loudest or Villa who roar their way to three points?
Wolves come into this one off the back of a shock win over last season’s treble winners, Manchester City. This was thanks to a Ruben Dias own goal and a Hwang Hee-Chan finish, who netted his fourth goal of the season in all competitions. On the other hand, Pep Guardiola was not allowed to be on the sideline due to a touchline suspension; would this have had an impact on the result? Potentially.
Looking at Wolves’ start to the season, it is only that win against City that jumps out at me. Take that away and it is a poor start to the season for our Midland neighbours. Their only other win coming against fellow strugglers, Everton. They waved goodbye to the EFL Cup in the third round, like Villa, after losing to Championship side, Ipswich Town, 3-2.
Wolves’ main threat will come from Hwang Hee-Chan (the South Korean has scored five of Wolves’ last nine Premier League goals) and Pedro Neto who looks to have rekindled that form that he hit before suffering the ankle injury that ruled him out of the World Cup and a large part of last season. The Portuguese winger has assisted 4 times in the 2023/24 season already, which puts him at the top of the assist rankings in the league alongside James Maddison, Mohamed Salah and Kieran Trippier. It is going to be a tough one this Sunday for the Villa.
Wolves’ summer signing from RC Strasbourg Alsace, Jean-Ricner Bellegarde, will still be completing his three-match ban after his red card that he picked up against newly promoted Luton Town.
Tommy Doyle will be back in contention after missing the win over Manchester City after being ineligible to face his parent club. Will Gary O’Neil make any changes to an XI that beat City? Personally, I don’t believe he will. Surely.
Gary O’Neil has also confirmed that Santiago Bueno and Hugo Bueno will be in a race against time for Sunday. Santiago Bueno did make an appearance for Wolverhampton Wanderers Academy last Monday night as they beat Leeds United Academy 2-0. So, the centre-back does have minutes in the bank.
For Villa, the usual pair of Emiliano Buendia and Tyrone Mings remain out with their ACL
Emery will assess French duo, Moussa Diaby and Boubacar Kamara, before Sunday as the two of them missed the 1-0 victory over Zrinjski Mostar on Thursday night.
Unfortunately, though for Villa, Jacob Ramsey has suffered a setback and will be ruled out for the fixture alongside Alex Moreno.
Good news for Villa fans, however, as we saw Tim Iroegbunam return to full training in the week and he also made an appearance on Friday Night for the U21’s as they beat Hull U21’s in the PL Cup. Tim offers another option for Emery in that holding midfielder position.
Aston Villa (4-2-2-2)
Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Torres, Digne; Douglas Luiz, Tielemans; McGinn, Zaniolo; Diaby, Watkins
Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-4-3)
Sa; Kilman, Dawson, Toti; Semedo, Ait-Nouri, Gomes, Lemina; Neto, Cunha, Hee-Chan
We know that Molineux is a tough place to visit, especially with the Midlands rivalry. The home fans will be behind their boys in orange and it goes without saying that the Villa away stand will be rocking like usual; this one is going to be a close one.
I think that we nick a goal in the second half and that will then be enough for us to secure all three points. The week that the boys have had, they will be looking to continue this momentum and get the job done on Sunday afternoon. Wolves will defend well in a back three or five depending on offence and defence, that’s the reasoning for the one goal margin.
Prediction: Wolves 0 Aston Villa 1