Aston Villa vs Wolverhampton Wanderers Preview: Midlands derby with points needed at both ends of the table
Jack Grealish against Newcastle United (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Pool via Getty Images)

After picking up a point on the road against Newcastle United through an Ahmed Elmohamady goal, Dean Smith's men will be looking to pick up three points against their West Midlands rivals, Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Wolves come into this game on the back of two wins against Villa's relegation rivals West Ham and Bournemouth - and will be looking to extend their winning run in an empty Villa Park. 

A win would see Villa take a huge step towards survival and climb up to 16th in the table, whilst a win for Wolves would see them leapfrog Manchester United and Chelsea to 4th spot for now. 

Key Battles

Down the left-hand side Matt Targett will likely face Adama  Traoré in what could prove to be an important battle throughout the game. The pace and power of  Traoré got the better of Targett in their last meeting, despite this - Smith is confident in his ability after facing tricky wingers over the past week:

"He's had Willian, Saint-Maximim up against him and it's likely if I pick Matt Targett he's got Traore up against him".

Another key battle will be in the midfield between Douglas Luiz and Rúben Neves - the two midfielders will pit their wits against each other as Neves will look to spring the counter-attack against Villa. Luiz will be key in containing such threats in the middle of the park and build upon an impressive return to action.  

Previous Meetings

In their previous five encounters in all competitions, Villa have won two and lost three. Their most recent win came in the form of a 2-1 win in the Carabao Cup fourth round back in October - with goals coming from Anwar El Ghazi and Ahmed Elmohamady for Villa and Patrick Cutrone for Wolves. 

Villa's only other previous win came back in the Championship in 2018, in an emphatic 4-1 win at Villa Park - with goals from Albert Adomah, James Chester, Lewis Grabban and Birkir Bjarnason for Villa and Diego Jota for Wolves

Last time round at Molineux Villa suffered a 2-1 loss, with goals from Rúben Neves and Raúl Jiménez for Wolves and Trézéguet for Villa. 

Team News

Smith confirmed that Danny DrinkwaterFrédéric Guilbert and Henri Lansbury are all in contention to feature for Villa, with the only notable absentees being Pepe Reina and Wesley Moraes out long term. 

Nuno's Wolves side have come from their previous game against Bournemouth with a fully fit squad available for selection at Villa Park.

Predicted Line-ups

Wolves: Patricio; Boly, Coady, Sais; Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Traoré, Jiménez, Jota (3-4-3).

Villa: Nyland; Konsa, Hause, Mings, Targett; Nakamba, Luiz; Jota, Grealish, El Ghazi; Samatta. (4-2-3-1).

Managers Thoughts

Ahead of the clash, Smith admitted his admiration for the job that Nuno has done at Wolves in such a short space of time: 

“It inspires me, for sure. I was coming up against Nuno with Brentford in the Championship. Now, seeing what they're doing in the Premier League is inspiring. They've done a fantastic job competing on all fronts even in Europe this season.

“They have a realistic aim of being a top-six team now. They've done a fantastic job and credit must go to all of them".

Nuno said he replicates the same feeling ahead of the clash: 

"What I know is I appreciate Dean Smith a lot. The time we spent together talking was really enjoyable, I respect him a lot, and his staff and players. Of course, we are rivals and it’s special for us, but I appreciate Dean Smith and I was very thankful for the words I read from him. It’s both ways, enormous respect and admiration”.

Nuno also admitted how tough he feels the clash against Villa is, despite what the league table suggests:

"We look at Villa as a strong opponent, because Dean Smith I know and faced in the Championship. His ideas of football, the players and talent, this is what we are focused on. It’s a special game for everybody so let’s compete well in a very different, but tough environment".

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