Wolves 2 Aston Villa 0

The series of road closures around Molineux couldn’t have been more incongruously timed, with Wolves so utterly brilliant that Highways England and the council combined couldn’t divert Nuno’s men from what appears a relentless journey.

In automotive terms, that was a Bugatti Veyron performance at its most exhilarating, sending the pulses racing, the goosebumps tingling and even the most morbid of fans thinking that our destination might just be reached – with some spare fuel in the tank on last night’s showing.

At various points of this game you felt blessed to be there, alive in the moment and you sensed you could look back on it like you still do for the likes of Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup or Bully’s winner against the Blues. That Waterloo Road was coned off afterwards made it even better, as an inadvertent fan zone formed, flooding the street afterwards with supporters singing and bouncing back into town in a scene I’ve not seen in 30 years.

The worry, as always with Wolves, is that something will go wrong. Jota will get crocked, Neves will break down, or Miranda will get homesick and the wheels will fall off. Under Nuno’s watch, you sense he’s got a spare tyre in the boot and won’t panic anyway, as we carry on clocking up the miles on our journey to the place we daren’t mention just yet.

‘We are back in work on Monday and have a tough game on Saturday,’ reflected the boss, at his knowing best.

With the mesmeric Jota and co lighting up the Molineux and a 30,000 strong crowd in full voice, it feels like we’re the sort of formidable force that even Hurricane Ophelia’s couldn’t budge.

The game itself was a joy to watch, as an in-form Villa were swept aside with ease. The defensive three of Coady, Miranda and Batth were first to every ball and stifled every single attack before offloading intelligently. From there, our creative players worked their magic with Neves looking every inch the £15 million man in the middle.

Cavaleiro put in an incredible performance, interchanging with Costa and Diogo, with the twin turbo engines of Douglas and Doherty again knitting it all together. Then Bonatini came on and made us even better.

It sounds so straightforward to explain, so easy to watch and so simple in practice…

The way that football should be played.

Wolves Vs Aston Villa Preview

Unlike last season when both teams were farting around in lower midtable, this game has substance.

Taking 4 points off them was enjoyable but it didn’t count for anything in the final reckoning and they still finished above us.

Now we’re riding high but they’re also coming up like an express train with four wins in a row lifting them to within a point of the play-offs.

Derailing that progress and possibly taking ourselves to the top of the table in the process would be some statement of intent. They’ll be equally buoyant if things go their way.

A sell out crowd, live on TV, under the floodlights – it’s got all the big game feels.

Villa

They’ve finally got their act together for Steve Bruce, which isn’t a great surprise. Both manager and players have done it all before.

Over the last year they’ve brought in most of the best Championship talent and supplemented that with several proven Premier League performers including John Terry.

Glen Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Ahmed Elmohamady are performers the boss can rely on to deliver. The latter pair have already got him out of this league once during their time at Hull.

Kodjia is a key player and gives them that zip up front. If he remains fit, he’ll easily surpass the 20 goal mark. We need to keep him tied up tomorrow.

Young Keinan Davis is also making a big impression and he’s definitely another to look out for. Adomah and Onomah are other pacey threats Wolves may have to suppress.

Wolves

Nuno’s got some tactical headaches after demolishing Burton, assuming everyone is fit. We’ve all got our preferences and this is mine.

As others have stated Villa won’t risk playing a high line, so I think we need Bonatini back in the side to make it stick. Coady should also come back in based on his performances prior to taking an early shower at Bramall Lane.

Boly and Douglas (if fit) for Batth and Vinagre is harsh but I just think the team is stronger and more solid with those two playing. Others will disagree.

The above team omits Vinagre, Cavaliero, Enobakhare, Marshall and N’Diaye – all players I’d never be disappointed to see in the starting eleven indicating just how good life is at present.

Predictions

Here’s the thing. I feel like winning this one would be too good to be true, so I’ve convinced myself we’ll probably get turned over. Football fan logic has washed over me.

We shouldn’t fear Villa though and I believe we have better players, albeit with less experience. If both teams play to their maximum I think Wolves win out.

They’ll come with a plan to shut down space and use their know-how to simply edge us out, much like Cardiff were able to do a few months back so it’s whether we’ve learned to deal with that kind of treatment.

As I think we should win, but will probably lose I’ll sit on the fence and say Even Stevens.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 1 Aston Villa 0

Graham Taylor’s only full season in charge at Wolves was also my first as a season ticket holder.

I look back on that 94/95 campaign with great fondness, despite the fact it ended with crushing disappointment.

We won 15 of our 23 homes games that year and were only beaten on three occasions. Molineux was a fortress.

This victory under the same floodlights was eerily reminiscent of those happy times and as such it felt like a fitting tribute to the great man.

Villa fans might disagree of course but I thought their team contributed to what was a fast paced and open game of football.

Wolves were good value for the win, always looking the more incisive with their attacking play and always the more capable of creating chances.

The visitors enjoyed more of the ball but didn’t manage anything like a meaningful effort on target all evening.

Once Ross McCormack sent a header sailing over Carl Ikeme’s crossbar following a superb run from Jordan Amavi, Steve Bruce’s men failed to threaten.

They were already a goal down at that point after Joe Mason profited from Nouha Dicko’s forceful run and cross, which was just reward for a good spell of intricate football.

I suppose the only frustrating aspect from Paul Lambert’s perspective was that his team didn’t then go on to kill the game off with the opposition there for the taking.

Instead Villa got a foothold and started to exert a measure of control, but without the powerful Kodija or the tricky Ayew – both away on African Cup of Nations duty – they lacked the pace or guile to break through.

Even the introduction of Jack Grealish (a somewhat surprising omission from the starting lineup) couldn’t alter the pattern of play as Wolves coped with a degree of comfort.

Helder Costa was once again instrumental and opened up the their defence several times in another impressive outing.

Had Nouha Dicko had the presence of mind to offer a return pass when racing clear in the second half, the Portuguese winger would have had the tap in he so richly deserved.

Richard Stearman also enjoyed his finest performance in a long while with the specters of Mike Williamson and Kortney Hause no doubt at the forefront of his mind.

His aggression, desire and hunger to be first to every ball was characteristic of the whole team, which is testament to the job Paul Lambert is doing.

He said afterwards it was the hardest decision of his career leaving out Williamson, Lee Evans and a few other of the heroes from last weekend’s cup victory at Stoke.

I’m sure this precious triumph over his former club (played down unconvincingly in his post match summary) felt like more than adequate compensation.

Wolves Vs Aston Villa Preview

You know Paul Lambert had this one circled on his calendar from the get go.

Even though top to bottom it’s a completely different club top to the one he left in 2015, no victory would taste sweeter.

Much of that owes to the sheer level of vitriol aimed in his direction by some Villa supporters over his contribution to their downfall.

Personally, I don’t get it.

As Villa supporter Patrick Scahill said on the Birmingham Mail site: ‘He was given 50m in three seasons in charge and kept us up every time together with reducing the wage bill by in excess of 50%. When you compare that to 50m in the Championship and struggling, it’s mad really.’

That’s kind of where I land. I always felt he was making a decent fist of a bad situation at Villa Park. If performances deteriorated it was because they were always asking him to pull an even bigger rabbit out of the hat.

There’s definitely an argument that Tim Sherwood came in and got a better response out of the same group of players, but their pitiful relegation season proved that the problems lay much higher up the food chain.

Villa

It’s no surprise to anyone that they’ve picked up under Steve Bruce. I always felt with the players they have that improvement was inevitable, regardless of who was in charge.

But Bruce is as proven as they come in the second tier and if it’s not this season (due to that horrible start), it’s difficult to foresee them not having a real go next time.

That said, recent form hasn’t been particularly good. They lost to Cardiff last time out in the league and showed very little adventure against Tottenham’s reserves in the cup.

This derby probably arrives at a decent time in that respect as it could shake them back into action.

I’m a bit surprised Rudy Gestede was allowed to leave. He’s an effective player at this level. Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone looks a good signing. They haven’t had a decent keeper for some time so he’ll be a welcome addition.

Henri Lansbury is also strongly tipped to be making the trip across the Midlands from Forest as Bruce looks to shape a squad that can progress up the table.

Wolves

There are endless options available to Paul Lambert after a second string eliminated Stoke from the FA Cup with a fair bit to spare.

Personally, I would continue with Williamson, Hause and Iorfa at the back. I’d be very surprised not to see the former in the starting line up, regardless of whose picked either side.

If Cavaleiro is fit enough to start, he’d still be my preferred option down the left particularly at home where the emphasis is on us to get at them.

Bodvarsson is looking back to his best and that makes him an automatic starter. I’d probably play Bright slightly deeper to help us dominate the ball, but Mason is another contender.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

Hopefully this will play out like the reverse fixture earlier in the season, with a fairly even first half followed by Wolves dominating the second.

We should have won that game on the balance of play, but I strongly doubt we’ll have it as much our way this time.

Still, I’ll be bold and back us to get another morale boosting victory.

2-1

Up The Wolves!

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Aston Villa 1 Wolves 1

We should have won.

That’s the disappointing footnote to an otherwise encouraging performance.

Even stevens at the break it was total domination thereafter with only a decisive finish lacking.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson would have obliged had he not been taken out by Micah Richards when poised to score.

Quite how the referee failed to interpret the big defender barreling into the back of the Icelander as anything other than a penalty is difficult to understand.

The cynical stamp from Jack Grealish on Conor Coady was a tougher spot but retrospective action will almost certainly see that cowardly response punished with a three game ban.

James Chester was also counting his lucky stars after tripping the magnificent Helder Costa when already on a yellow. He should have walked.

Notwithstanding these injustices, Ivan Cavaleiro could have won it at the last after the ball broke kindly in the box.

Edwards and Oniangue also threatened as Wolves poured forward in waves and Villa struggled to hang on.

But despite the big moment failing to materialise, the team can take heart from another pulsating second half display which are fast becoming the trademark of the Zenga era.

The pace and intensity were relentless and nobody characterised the performance better than Helder Costa.

This was the winger’s best outing to date capped with a superb penalty to level things up.

He terrorised Villa in the second half and was inches away from winning the game, curling a fine effort just wide of the post.

With a quarter of the season gone, he has now emerged as a key performer and along with a handful of others (Bodvarsson, Ikeme, Doherty and Iorfa spring to mind) can be considered first choice.

Two more games follow within a week and rotation seems inevitable for Tuesday’s trip to Brighton.

Slow starts, individual error and inconsistency remain our greatest enemies.

Aston Villa Vs Wolves Preview

Wolves fans know a bit about free falling so are probably better positioned than most to empathise with the plight of Aston Villa.

 

It took two relegations, a backroom reshuffle and a safe-pair-of-hands-appointment to finally halt our nosedive.

In that sense, Steve Bruce feels like the right man for the job at Villa Park. Not the most glamorous or high profile, but the right man at the right time.

Few have a better record in the Championship and I expect him to do well once he’s got his feet properly under the table.

For us, the only question that matters is ‘what impact can he make before tomorrow?’.

Villa

avPerhaps I was in the minority, but I thought Roberto Di Matteo would eventually turn it around.

Granted I’ve only seen Villa play a few times this season, but it seemed like they’ve been guilty of missing chances and failing to kill games off as much as anything.

And it’s that wastefulness and those last minute giveaways that ultimately cost the Italian his job, which is understandable.

They shouldn’t be 19th in the Championship nearly a quarter of the way through the season, particularly given their significant summer outlay.

McCormack, Ayew, Gestede, Adomah, Jedinak, Chester – they’ve got the individual quality, but for whatever reason that hasn’t translated into a successful team.

I do wonder if they’re overloaded in attack and trying to find the best combination is part of the problem. If Bruce gets it right though, they’ll soon start climbing.

Wolves

Wolves aren’t overloaded in attack, that’s for sure. In fact, I’d go as far as to say we’re totally reliant on one man – Jon Dadi Bodvarsson.

team-for-brentford

Nouha Dicko will need more time to get back up to his very best, as we saw in a rusty cameo against Norwich. He did go on to bang in a few goals for the U23s last week, but it’s a big step up to play consistently in the Championship.

But I’m not convinced even a fully fit Dicko could lead the line in the way Jon Dadi Bodvarsson has this season. We need his considerable presence tomorrow. If he doesn’t play, my outlook on the game immediately becomes bleaker.

The above eleven is the team that won at Newcastle and the blend of that team still looks about right, based on the options available.

Conor Coady might offer a useful alternative in this particular fixture. He’s played well in derby fixtures against Blues by getting in faces and disrupting play, which is exactly what Wolves must do tomorrow.

Walter Zenga

Predictions

Sorry to be a drag, but I think we’ll lose. Simply because I still believe Villa will light at some point and it’s just our luck it will be tomorrow.

They haven’t won any of their last 9 Championship games, but have been well in most of those matches and just found themselves dragged back or on the wrong side of the result.

Wolves are an unpredictable force so anything is possible. I think we’ll score, but can we cope with everything they’ll throw at us?

2-1 Villa. Prove me wrong lads.

Up The Wolves!

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