Wolves v Villa: A Midlands derby that will measure both clubs’ progress
Wolverhampton Wanderers host Aston Villa at Molineux this weekend in arguably the most fascinating clash of the season so far.
Saturday’s Championship evening kick-off will provide a substantial insight into how far the two clubs have progressed.
The West Midlands giants – second and seventh, respectively – have tread an oddly similar path in the last 18 months or so.
Both clubs had been taken over by wealthy Chinese businessmen within a couple of months of each other back in 2016.
Walter Zenga’s disastrous appointment and sacking at Wolves was mirrored by that of Roberto Di Matteo at their more illustrious neighbours.
Paul Lambert was brought in to steady the ship at Molineux, while Steve Bruce was appointed Villans boss.
After a fairly tumultuous 12 months in the hot-seat, Bruce looks like he has finally got the claret & blue bandwagon rolling at a decent pace.
Villa have won their last four league games in a row and are unbeaten in the Championship since a 2-1 defeat to Reading on 15 August.
It’s no surprise to see that run coincide with the return of Jonathan Kodjia. The Ivory Coast international is vital to Bruce’s team.
The 27-year-old brings a flair and unpredictability to a very British-style team. It’s well-organised, physical, and direct.
Senior stars like John Terry, Glenn Whelan, and Robert Snodgrass have supplemented what was already a core-UK and Irish squad.
On the other hand, Wolves have headed in a different, more continental direction.
Out went Paul Lambert at the end of last season, and in came former Valencia and Porto head coach, Nuno Espirito Santo.
That was at the behest of super agent Jorge Mendes who has been tasked with overseeing recruitment at the club.
Wanderers now play a more progressive, short-passing game that has been the hallmark of Espirito Santo’s previous teams.
Young aces like Diogo Jota, Ruben Neves, and Leo Bonatini have been brought in and have taken to the Championship like ducks to water.
Can they handle what should be a white-hot atmosphere at Molineux in a big Midlands derby?
Villa have traditionally had the better of this fixture with four wins to Wolves’ two victories in the last 10 competitive meetings since 2003.
Steve Bruce certainly has a squad with more big-game experience, but will they have the legs to cope with a vibrant young Wolves side?
It’s all set up for an absolute cracker on Saturday evening. We can’t wait.
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