Wolves v Aston Villa preview: Selection dilemmas for Nuno
Wolves generally don’t fare well after international breaks.
In recent years they’ve earned a reputation among their fanbase for coming back from a two-week break in sluggish fashion, writes Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers.
The stats back it up. Not counting the League One campaign in which they (expectedly) beat all and sundry in a record-breaking campaign, Wolves have won just four of their past 25 post-international break encounters before this season.
Not that Nuno Espirito Santo will give a damn about such a statistic, or indeed anything which happened before he arrived in Wolverhampton on June 1.
Nuno is keen to make his own history and, unlike past bosses, doesn’t feel the weight of tradition or expectation that comes with being Wolves’ head coach.
So while tomorrow’s clash is highly anticipated and Molineux is close to a sell-out, it’ll be just another game for the Portuguese chief.
One thing he does need to worry about though is picking the right XI, given there are a number of selection dilemmas for him to ponder.
Conor Coady is back from suspension, Willy Boly is back in training and Barry Douglas should be fit after two weeks of recuperation
In midfield he must choose between Romain Saiss and Alfred N’Diaye, who travelled to Morroco, Switzerland (both Saiss) and Cape Verde (N’Diaye) during the break.
Up front one of Helder Costa, Leo Bonatini, Ivan Cavaleiro and Diogo Jota will miss out.
If he’s returned from Tuesday’s trip to Bosnia with Portugal Under-21s in good health, Jota is a certain starter, but Nuno may choose to recall Bonatini against what’s likely to be a deep-lying Villa defence. Whoever plays the wing-backs, as they have been all season so far, will be crucial for Wolves.
It’s a role Douglas has adapted to quickly, given his excellent performances since moving from Konyaspor.
And it’s a position he’s enjoying.
“I’ve always liked to play offensively, it was just about learning more the defensive side of things because I feel comfortable going forward.” he said.
“I’ll play wherever the gaffer wants me to play but the style we’re playing definitely plays into my style and the way me and Doc, or whoever’s playing, gets forward and gives that width is giving us a lot of success.
“I think us having a good understanding with the midfielders, when to go or stay, we’re a lot higher up the park but sometimes we can get caught out going forward so it’s about that balance.
“You need to be fit! You wouldn’t get away with it if you’re not.
“It keeps you in good condition as well so you can give your all for the team.
“Every game I’m learning. It’s a new league for me and I’m enjoying it.
“We’re going to keep on learning every game but it’s important to focus a lot of ourselves, our qualities and what we can do. The rest will come.”
Likely line ups
Wolves (3-4-3): John Ruddy; Batth, Coady, Miranda; Doherty, Neves, Saiss, Vinagre; Cavaleiro, Bonatini, Jota.
Subs: Norris, Boly, Douglas, Price, N'Diaye, Costa, Enobakhare.
Villa (4-4-2): Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Snodgrass, Whelan, Hourihane, Adomah; Kodjia, Davis.
Subs: Steer, Jedinak, Samba, Lansbury, De Laet, Onomah, Hogan.
Wolves: Conor Coady
Coady is expected to come back into the side after suspension. The covering centre half will need to watch out for Villa’s pacy counter attacks.
Villa: Glenn Whelan
Mixed season at best so far for Villa – but how well he does to stop Wolves is crucial.
Wolves – Home wins against Villa have been rare in recent years. Before last season’s 1-0 you have to go back to 1978 when Mel Eves netted in a 3-1 victory.
Villa – Gary Shaw’s brace and a Wolves own goal saw league champions Villa win 3-0 at a canter at Molineux in October 1981.
Nuno: "The opponents maybe take a different look to us and prepare in a different way and try to adapt but that doesn’t change anything for us."
Bruce: "As with any international break, you just hope they all return unscathed."