Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers have gone almost five years without locking horns. But that will all change this weekend, as Walter Zenga takes his side to Villa Park where he’ll be met by new boss Steve Bruce in the opposite dugout, whose appointment was announced earlier this week.
While much of the emphasis of late has been on the home side, we caught up with Wolves legend Matt Murray and @WeLoveWolves to talk about their side’s chances of stunning what is expected to be a bouncing Villa Park.
Ladbrokes News: Where do you rank this game in the pyramid of West Midland derbies? And who would you say is top dog in the area right now?
Matt Murray: I think this is still a massive game. I know Wolves well and I loved it when we won there 1-0 with a Matt Jarvis goal back in 2011. I think that all Midlands teams think that Villa see themselves as the biggest club as they had been in the Premier League for all those years.
@WeLoveWolves: The fixture ranks quite low in terms of big Midland derbies. There’s not much hatred between the two sides, a bit like Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion.
Top dog in the Midlands right now is Leicester City, although in our region it would have to be WBA, unfortunately!
LN: With that in mind, are you expecting tempers to flare on Saturday evening?
MM: I’m expecting a full house, especially now Bruce is in charge! It will be a great atmosphere, I’m sure, and Villa spirits will be high. But I’m still expecting this one to be a close game.
LN: It’s one win in the last 20 meetings between these two sides for Wolves. Where do you think things have gone wrong in the past? Do you think that record will play on the minds of this new-look Wolves side?
@WLW: I think it’s just a matter of consistency. Villa consistently kept a good team for a number of years, while we were a bit of a yo-yo club! I don’t think they’ll [the new players] even think about that record. It’s a new era, and I’m sure they’ll give everything they’ve got!
LN: Does Bruce’s appointment hinder Wolves’ chances of leaving Villa Park with anything or does it give you more confidence heading into this one?
MM: Bruce coming in is definitely a blow from a Wolves point of view as the whole place [Villa Park] will have had a lift. He’s a great man-manager, he knows the league well so I’m sure he’ll get a reaction.
@WLW: I think it does hinder our chances. New-manager syndrome always seems to affect us. But if we play like we can, and our main men perform, I’m confident we can get a positive result.
LN: Do you have any memories from playing in this fixture yourself, Matt?
MM: I never played competitively in this fixture, although we sometimes met in pre-season where we always lost! I remember them coming to Molineux and beating us convincingly, Juan Pablo Angel scored for them. There are lots of Villa fans around me so I’ll always take some banter whenever we lose!
LN: Can you give us a score prediction?
MM: I would be delighted if Wolves got a point, as this is a very strong Villa side that can still make the play-offs in my opinion. A win would be unreal! I could never go against Wolves though, so I’ll sit on the fence and say 1-1!
@WLW: I’d like to say Wolves will win, but I’m going for a 2-2 draw.
LN: And finally, @WeLoveWolves, what are your expectations for the season ahead?
@WLW: In truth, my expectations are not very high right now. I think we should be up there once we figure out our best team and get past Christmas. On the whole, the expectations have risen massively of late, with the players we now have and the money available to us, but I think it will still take time to all come together. Maybe play-offs at best!
As bad as their record looks overall against Aston Villa, Wolves are unbeaten in their last three visits to Villa Park, drawing two and winning one.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing