Villa Park plays host to a crunch West Midlands derby as Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers lock horns on Saturday afternoon.

The Premier League returns this weekend with another batch of interesting matchups. One of the standout ones comes on Sunday afternoon when Wolverhampton Wanderers travel to Birmingham to take on Dean Smith’s Aston Villa.

Aston Villa were sent crashing back down to reality as they suffered a humbling 2-1 defeat to the hands of a struggling Tottenham side in their last match, giving them little time to celebrate the brilliant Manchester United triumph. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg opened the scorings for Spurs, Ollie Watkins equalized for the visitors, only for Matt Targett to push the ball into his own net to hand Lilywhites all three points.

Villa continues their topsy-turvy start to the campaign. With this defeat stopping Villa’s momentum after victories over Everton and Manchester United, Dean Smith will look to recover after they were smacked-back to the mid-table in 10th position, putting a dent in their European ambitions.

Wolves, on the other hand, are starting to get a foothold under Bruno Lage after their unlucky set of defeats at the start. Replacing Nuno Espirito Santo’s shoes at Molineux was always going to be a difficult task, but after a rocky start to life in the Black Country, Lage looks to be working his philosophy of exciting brand of football to the excellent effect given his side’s current run of victories.

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After a refreshing goal from Raul Jimenez helped Wolves beat Southampton 1-0, the Molineux side made it consecutive wins with a 2-1 victory against Newcastle United. Jimenez supplied a pair of intricate through passes for Hwang Hee-chan to score a brace on home turf. They now sit in a comfortable 12th position with 9 points. Ahead of the latest encounter between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both sides.

Team News & Tactics

Aston Villa

Aston Villa are one of several Premier League clubs hit by the second international break, with South American pair Emiliano Martinez and Douglas Luiz extremely questionable owing to late arrivals following their return from World Cup Qualifying games.

Dean Smith have been handed a significant blow with Leon Bailey ruled out of weekend’s encounter, while Bertrand Traore is also a doubt. But in positive news, Morgan Sanson and Keinan Davis have both been restored to full training, putting them straight back in contention.

Smith may opt for a 4-4-2 system with Emiliano Martinez making a late entry between the sticks. Guarding him in the central defence will be the reliable pairing of Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings. Flanking them on either flank will be the consistent fixture of Matty Cash and Matt Targett offering width to the forwards.

With Douglas Luiz absent, John Mcginn and Jacob Ramsey will slot in at the base of the midfield in deeper roles to protect the back-four. Emi Buendia hasn’t yet sparked to life at Villa Park but will be hoping for a more impactful game creating the play from the right-wing position while in Leon Bailey’s absence, El Ghazi will get a chance on the left-wing of the midfield quartet.

Smith will continue to play his two-man strike-partnership in Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins upfront. Ings proved to be Villa’s biggest goal-scoring threat since his arrival at the club, while Watkins provided the link-up play and pace to get behind the opposition defences.

Aston Villa Probable Lineup: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Buendia, McGinn, Ramsey, El Ghazi; Watkins, Ings


Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves will be without Yerson Mosquera, Pedro Neto, and Jonny Otto for the Weekend’s clash as they remain sidelined with long-term injuries, while Francisco Trincao was diagnosed with Covid-19 earlier this month and will not take part in the West Midlands derby. Striker Raul Jiménez faces a race against the clock to return in time for the match following his exploits in Mexico’s 2-0 triumph over El Salvador.

Wolves boss Bruno Lage will be pleased with the progress achieved on the principles that he wants to instil in his team’s style of play, and he will stick with his favoured 3-4-3 formation. Portuguese keeper Jose Sa will be deputized in goal. Protecting him will be the three-man backline of Max Kilman, Romain Saiss, and captain Conor Coady will remain intact. The backline must handle the duo of Ings and Watkins effectively.

Nélson Semedo and Fernando Marçal will feature as the wing-backs, with Semedo surging forwards at every opportune while the latter provides solidity to deter the threat on turnovers. The elegant passing combo of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho will play the double midfield pivot. The Wanderers will be hoping to utilize Neves passing ability in making the killer passes in the final third.

Adama Traore has lost his starting spot to Hwang Hee-chan in recent weeks but should be back on the right side of the frontline with Trincao out unless Lage chooses to go with Daniel Podence instead. There are signs of a blossoming partnership between Raul Jimenez and Hwang. It’s difficult to imagine them not combining very well again against Aston Villa.

Wolverhampton Wanderers Probable Lineup: Jose Sa; Kilman, Coady, Saiss; Semedo, Neves, Moutinho, Marcal; Traore, Jimenez, Hwang


Key Stats

  • Aston Villa edges out in head-to-head record against Wolves, with 56 wins out of 130 meetings between these sides, as opposed to Wolves 41, but the Villan’s have only won once in the past 7 meetings (D4 L2).
  • Aston Villa are in a strong run of form at Villa Park and have not lost a single game in their past five Premier League games at home(W3 D2) while only surrendering a single goal.
  • Wolves emerge victorious in three of the last four games while only losing once, and the Black country outfit will be looking for their third consecutive top-flight victories for the first time since June 2020; ironically, the third win was a 1-0 win at Villa Park.
  • Both Aston Villa and Wolves like to grow into the game, with their 80 per cent goals this season coming in the second half of the matches.

Player to Watch

Raul Jiménez

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Jimenez’s importance to the Wolves system has been undeniable, he provides them with an outlay to create the attacking play’s around. After initial fears of losing touch after recovering from the 11-months spell on the sidelines with a life-threatening fractured skull, he finally found his rhythm by first getting off the mark scoring winner against Southampton.

He then followed it up by knitting a pair of spectacular assists for his strike partner Hee-Chan Hwang against Newcastle. The Mexican’s skill set is very similar to that of Harry Kane, an exceptional marksman but equally capable of picking his passes while dropping deep, and in Hwang, Jimenez has someone with more potent finishing skill than Adama Traore, indicating a budding partnership up top which will be hugely beneficial for Wolves in a longer run.


Aston Villa 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Derbies always tend to be an intense game on the fixtures calendar, with both teams trying their utmost and put a graft on the pitch for this very specific tie. However, since reuniting in the top-flight, games between these two Midlands rivals have hardly been classics, with only two goals scored in the previous three encounters.

Aston Villa have a mixed start to their campaign struggled to be consistent, scoring goals have never been a problem despite them not being able to assemble all of their attacking assets, but a Hwang and Jimenez-inspired Wolves team is gaining momentum and may reasonably hope to throw everything to grab all three points at Villa Park.

With very-less to separate between both sides, Another low-scoring cagey affair could be in the offing this weekend. The Hard tackle predicts an exciting 1-1 draw to share the spoils in the West Midlands derby.

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