Aston Villa v Wolves: Familiar foes looking for a performance to kick-start their hit-and-miss seasons

Tomorrow’s first West Midlands derby of the season in the Premier League is between rivals looking to prove their seasons offer more than mid-table mediocrity, writes chief sports writer Matt Maher.

Bertrand Traore of Aston Villa is challenged by Romain Saiss of Wolverhampton Wanderers. (AMA)
Bertrand Traore of Aston Villa is challenged by Romain Saiss of Wolverhampton Wanderers. (AMA)

Villa host Wolves with the two teams sat 10th and 12th respectively in the table after campaigns which have so far offered cause for both optimism and concern.

Dean Smith’s men recovered from a nightmare opening day showing at Watford to beat Everton and Manchester United before an underwhelming display at Tottenham prior to the international break put a halt on rising expectations.

Wolves took plaudits but no points for their efforts against both United and Spurs and arguably looked a little less fluid while recording wins over Southampton and Newcastle, two sides who remain winless.

Indifferent starts were perhaps to be expected considering the summer upheaval at both clubs, with the arrival of Bruno Lage at Molineux and the departure of talisman Jack Grealish from Villa Park, followed by a necessary squad rebuild.

Neither have preparations for tomorrow’s clash been particularly ideal. Indeed, there will likely be a few weary bodies out on the pitch with Raul Jimenez having played for Mexico in El Salvador during the early hours of yesterday morning, while Villa duo Emi Martinez and Douglas Luiz are, as you read, still en route back to the UK from Argentina and Brazil respectively.

Still, they are hardly the only teams to have experienced disruption and we are approaching the point of the season when those looking to challenge in the top half of the table must begin to find some consistent form. A derby win would certainly set things up nicely for either team heading into the depths of the autumn, albeit this chiefly feels like a fixture neither can really afford to lose. Tomorrow might also offer the chance for a couple of key players on either team to kick-start their respective campaigns.

So electric was Adama Traore’s August form it saw Wolves decide against selling him to Tottenham. But Lage’s men finished the month pointless and the Spain international largely spent wins over Southampton and Newcastle watching from the bench. Francisco Trincao’s likely unavailability after contracting Covid-19 will give Traore the chance to force his way back in.

Villa supporters, meanwhile, are still waiting to see the best from record signing Emi Buendia following his £33million summer move from Norwich. One impressive goal against Brentford aside, the 24-year-old’s efforts to establish himself were perhaps not helped by spending three weeks away from the club around the last international break. Having missed out on Argentina’s squad this time around, Buendia has been working at Bodymoor Heath for the last fortnight and Smith may decide the moment has come for the playmaker to show what he can do. Wolves are unbeaten at Villa Park since their rivals returned to the Premier League but this is the first time the fixture has been played in front of supporters, something for everyone to celebrate.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News