Steve Bruce’s first game as Aston Villa boss is a Midlands derby against Wolves at Villa Park, as the Villains try to get their season up and running after a dismal start. Former Chelsea boss Roberto di Matteo was sacked after one win in 11 Championship games, not a run of results that matched the high expectations around Villa following Dr Tony Xia’s purchase of Villa.
The club spent £55 million in the summer, including the £15 million acquisition of Bristol City striker Jonathan Kodjia who has one goal in six league starts. That size of expenditure means Villa have to aim for promotion at the first time of asking, and Bruce will not get much in the way of a honeymoon period. Villa sit 10 points behind the play off places, albeit with 31 games remaining in the league season.
Wolves are also having an indifferent time of things under new boss Walter Zenga, and sit in 12th on 15 points. They are also under new ownership after Fosun International’s takeover in the summer, and an incredible total of 13 new players arrived at Molineux in the transfer window. The pressure is on both teams going into Saturday’s late kick off.
Villa’s 2-0 defeat at Preston was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as di Matteo was concerned, a result that followed three successive draws in the league. They have only scored two goals in those four games, something that will have to change if they are to climb the table. Wolves won two consecutive games, including a win away at Newcastle, but followed those victories up with back to back defeats against Wigan and Norwich.
Aston Villa starting XI Wolves starting XI
Injuries and Suspensions
Jack Grealish should return from a hamstring injury having featured for England-under-21s in the international break. Jordan Ayew though picked up an ‘unspecified injury’ while on international duty with Ghana and is a doubt for Saturday’s game. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Nouha Dicko are available for the visitors, but Mike Williamson, forward Michal Zyro and Jordan Graham are all absent.
Punters tend to account for the ‘bounce’ that can occur after a managerial appointment, and Villa are firm favourites for this one. However, Bruce’s new side have had a pretty traumatic last 12 months and it will take time for them to rebuild confidence and belief. Wolves have been very inconsistent, but showed at St James Park last month that they can rise to the big occasion.
Villa have already dropped 11 points from winning positions this season from winning positions, and they seem to have a real problem getting over the line. They have record a division high seven draws, and that seems a decent bet going into this derby match. Bruce looks the right appointment for Villa, but it will take time for him to change the mood at Villa Park.