Five key decisions for Smith as Villa prepare for Wolves clash

As the international break rumbles on, Aston Villa boss Dean Smith will be analysing our next opponents Wolves and assembling the most suitable starting XI.

Villa fell to defeat at Tottenham last time out, and so all concerned will be eager to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.

READ MORE: Why Smith should tweak Villa system vs Wolves as flexibility is key

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However, it won’t be easy against a Wolves side that has won their last two Premier League games back-to-back, and so Villa must be at their best in order to secure all three points.

Frustratingly, Smith will seemingly continue to face various issues which deny him the chance to field his strongest XI, and so it will be interesting to see what he goes with next weekend.

Does Martinez start

Argentina face Peru at 00:30 on Friday October 15, just hours before Villa host Wolves at 15:00 on Saturday October 16.

In turn, Smith has a big decision over Emiliano Martinez, one that will likely be dictated by how he feels once he arrives back in Birmingham.

It’s a critical decision as we can’t afford to see our first-choice shot-stopper not at his best, and so Smith has to decide whether or not to trust him to make the best decision for the team for this one or go with Jed Steer.

3-5-2 or 4-3-3

While the 3-5-2 brought positive results and served its purpose against some top teams away from home, it has to be questioned whether or not it’s the best option at home in a game where we need to be on the front foot.

Tactically, it might match up well with what Wolves bring, and Smith may feel as though he’s got the beating of Bruno Lage with that particular system.

However, with the players on our bench in recent weeks including the likes of Emiliano Buendia and Bertrand Traore, we’ve got too much quality and creativity not in the starting line-up, and they will be crucial in breaking down a resolute Wolves side who will look to stay organised defensively and make it difficult for us first and foremost.

Douglas Luiz availability

Similarly to Martinez, Luiz is in international action next week for Brazil and could even find himself arriving back in Birmingham at a similar time to his Villa teammate.

It’s arguably an easier decision to stick with Martinez given his position between the posts, as if Luiz is fatigued from either his exploits for Brazil or the trip back itself, or both, he could be vulnerable and left exposed in the heart of our midfield.

Whether it’s Marvelous Nakamba to give us some more solidity or perhaps John McGinn partnered by Jacob Ramsey in a deeper role with Carney Chukwuemeka possibly knocking on the door too depending on his injury status, Smith has options.

Is Bailey fit enough

Smith noted last week that he expects Leon Bailey to resume training over the international break after he suffered a quad injury in the win over Everton.

Given his lack of playing time though, it’s difficult to see him starting this game as he’ll still be lacking sharpness and his best condition.

Nevertheless, having him on the bench will be a major boost for Villa, as we’ve seen how he can change a game in the latter stages with his key contributions against Watford and Everton.

Ings or Watkins up top?

If Smith sticks with a 3-5-2, we’ll likely see them both. However, much hinges on that pivotal decision over our system and whether or not the 4-3-3 returns.

Ollie Watkins was on the mark last time out at Spurs, while he will be buoyed and full of confidence after his England call-up. Combine that with his pressing and ability to be our first line of defence, it’s hoped he’s now ready to hit top form.

That said, Danny Ings has been crucial thus far with his two goals and two assists in seven league outings, and so he’ll be disappointed if he’s one to miss out, but the question will likely continue to be asked until the pair click and showcase a dangerous partnership to lead the line.