For those who were against the appointment of Alex McLeish this summer, including myself, it has to be said that he has made a decent start by picking up results that fans would say were the minimum expected thus far. This Saturday’s local derby with Wolves will be a step up and it will be intriguing to see whether the Scot changes his system from the league up to now.
Wolves are in top form having won both of their league games this season, interestingly against the same sides that Villa have faced to date, Fulham and Blackburn. Where Villa failed to find a way through Fulham, Wolves did with some comfort, though it should be said that a travelling Fulham side are a completely different and more tame animal than when playing at Craven Cottage.
Both sides beat lower league opposition in midweek cup duty, albeit in more emphatic fashion from this weekend’s guests at Villa Park after they thumped Northampton 4-0. Alex McLeish made no fewer than 8 first team changes in the eventual 2-0 win over Hereford, though both Bent and N’Zogbia took their place in a strong starting XI.
While the likes of Makoun, Ireland and Bannan in particular played some decent stuff in the first half, Villa couldn’t find a way past a Hereford defence backed up by a keeper in top form. Were it not for the Bulls’ reserve choice stopper Cornell, the game would have been put to bed long before Eric Lichaj made the all important breakthrough in the 80th minute. Stephen Ireland and Darren Bent were both guilty of missing guilt-edged chances, though it would have been at least a 4-goal affair for the hosts were it not for Cornell, with Delfouneso seling the win 2 minutes from time.
As mentioned, Barry Bannan looked sharp on Tuesday and is perhaps most deserving of a start of those fringe players to line-up in the cup, though McLeish will be loathed to changing a winning side that were pretty comfortable against Blackburn. Therefore the likes of Shay Given, Luke Young, Gabby Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey are all likely to feature despite minor concerns from last week, with Delph resuming his position alongside Petrov after a fantastic start to the campaign.
Talking of fantastic starts to the campaign, the attacking Wolves trio of Matt Jarvis, Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher have impressed thus far, while former Blues and now Wolves skipper Roger Johnson has brought steel to a formerly shaky back-four. Like home manager McLeish, Mick McCarthy is unlikely to make unforced changes having dominated the game against Fulham at Molineux last week.
Wolves won this fixture earlier in the year but Villa carry decent league form over from last season and the loss to Wolves last March was their last league defeat at Villa Park so I remain confident of a victory, albeit a close one.
Goalscorer(s): N’Zogbia, Collins
Final Score: 2-1
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