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Aston Villa vs Wolves: Match preview and predicted line-ups

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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.

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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.

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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.

Predicted Line-ups

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.

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Conclusion

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.

Verdict: Draw

University of Nottingham History graduate. Freelance sportswriter specialising in Football, Cricket and Golf. Interested in the politics of sport.

Aston Villa

Aston Villa want Stephane Bahoken, who had woeful St Mirren loan in 2013-14

Aston Villa and a heap of other teams want the Cameroon international this summer.

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Aston Villa are said to be one of four English teams chasing the Strasbourg striker Stephane Bahoken this summer. France Football says Villa are keen, along with Swansea and Stoke City. The Express also mention Brighton, stating the Seagulls are frontrunners for the player.

Aston Villa’s interest will not be a surprise to many. They were heavily linked with Bahoken’s signature in January as well. SFR reported in the winter that Aston Villa wanted to bring him in on loan until the end of the season. Strasbourg refused but with his contract expiring this summer Aston Villa look set to return.

(Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images)

But something that is not being spoken about from the player’s past is his loan spell at Scottish side St Mirren.

Bahoken joined the Paisley side on loan from former club Nice in the summer of 2013. It should have been an exciting experience for the club and the player, but it was anything but.

Bahoken played four times for the club before the deal was cancelled in December. After a month in which another loan move failed to be ratified he headed back to the Scottish Premiership side. But, he did not play another game for the club. Four games, zero goals. It was a disaster for the Cameroonian striker.

Such a disastrous stint north of the border must be something Aston Villa and any other interested party will be concerned about.

(Photo credit should read XAVIER LEOTY/AFP/Getty Images)

He himself even admitted to being like a ‘spoilt kid’ at the club when talking to the Daily Record. He vowed to become a man.

It would be fair to say Bahoken has come a long way since his disastrous loan in Scotland.

After leaving Nice for Strasbourg in 2014 he quickly became very important for the team. This season he has scored seven goals in 23 games and his displays even earned him a first call-up to the Cameroon national team this year.

Aston Villa know that his signature would be a risk, based on his St Mirren disaster and rather muted goal record.

But seeing as he is a free transfer, it might be worth rolling the dice.

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Lovre Kalinic best keeper in Belgium, two years after red tape scuppered Aston Villa move

The Croatian has been in fine form since his move to KAA Gent.

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Back in January 2016, it looked like Aston Villa had found themselves a new goalkeeper. It looked like Croatian stopper Lovre Kalinic was on his way to join Villa – who at the time seemed doomed to relegation from the Premier League. The giant goalkeeper had been in talks with Villa for some time and the Daily Mail reported that a £4.9 million fee had been agreed between Villa and his club, Hajduk Split.

It soon emerged however that Kalinic would not be making the move. As reported by Index Kalinic did not have the requisite qualifications to be eligible for a work permit to play football in the UK. He had not fulfilled the quota of playing 75 percent of games for Croatia in the past two years – playing just once.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

That summer Aston Villa signed Italian Pierluigi Gollini, whilst Kalinic remained in Croatia until the following January. In the winter window of 2017, the goalie headed to Belgium, joining KAA Gent for a club record fee.

To say his move has been a success would be an understatement. Kalinic has been in fine form for the Belgian side. Despite playing just half of last season he was named the Goalkeeper of the Season in Belgium. He has just received the same accolade for the current campaign.

Aston Villa eventually did find a new goalkeeper, with Sam Johnstone arriving on loan from Manchester United.

But with his deal expiring at the end of the season, and Villa chasing promotion, should they return for Kalinic two years down the line?

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images,)

The 28-year-old is clearly good enough to make the step to English football and at one point was very excited to head to Villa Park.

He has played much more regularly for the Croatian national team and is now in a genuine battle with Monaco’s Danijel Subasic to be number one at this summer’s World Cup. If Kalinic can get the nod there, then a work permit will no longer be an issue.

With Johnstone only on loan, Aston Villa need to consider the fact they might need to find a different keeper in the summer. Two years ago they found the perfect man for the job in the form of the 6ft 5ins goalie but red tape stopped his arrival.

This summer they should surely consider going for Kalinic once again.

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Ritchie De Laet has now been dropped by his loan club

The Aston Villa defender is now struggling for football at Antwerp.

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Photo: Getty Images

When Aston Villa started to make wholesale improvements to the squad in the summer of 2016 they went on a spending spree bringing in talent good enough for the Premier League. One man they snapped up was even a Premier League winner the season before.

Ritchie De Laet was snapped up in the summer of 2016 after a season in which he won both the Premier League with Leicester City and promotion with Middlesbrough whilst on loan.

Considering he had also won promotion with Leicester in 2014, he looked the perfect addition to the Aston Villa fold.

Unfortunately, that has not proved to be the case.

The Belgian defender, who cost a fee reported by The Sun to be in the region of £2.5 million, was earmarked as the solution to Villa’s problem position of right-back.

However, De Laet never managed to have any sustained impact at Villa. He played just three times in his first season at the club before picking up a knee injury against Brentford. He was subsequently ruled out for the rest of the season.

This term he managed to feature sporadically through the first-half of the season but in January found himself out of contention. The 29-year-old was therefore sent out on loan to his boyhood club Royal Antwerp until the end of the season.

He immediately went into the starting XI for the Belgian side but has recently been dropped for the Europa League play-off fixtures.

It comes after a switch to 3-5-2 from his loan club, who have preferred to play Benfica loanee Aurelio Buta at right wing-back ahead of De Laet.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

This will certainly not have been the plan for De Laet, who will have hoped to have found his best form again in Belgium. However, it has not been that straightforward and he now finds himself on the bench.

This summer will be interesting for De Laet. It certainly does not seem as though Steve Bruce sees him as an Aston Villa player in the future. If the Villans can also capture promotion, it is expected new faces will arrive to push De Laet even further down the pecking order.

Thriving out on loan might have changed the mind of a few figures at Villa Park.

But seeing as he is not even an immediate starter with Antwerp, Aston Villa will likely consider him dispensable in the summer.

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