Aston Villa make the trip to Molineux to face Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday as domestic football resumes following the international break.
Villa were hugely disappointing in our 1-0 defeat to Arsenal at home prior to the break, and while a number of key players were away on international duty over the past fortnight, it’s hoped that the entire squad is ready to bounce back and produce a positive response to get a good run of form going again.
It won’t be easy against a talented Wolves side who sit one place above us in the Premier League table with a comfortable 10-point gap between us, but Villa will certainly be looking to silence the home crowd as we look to get some sense of revenge after our collapse in the 3-2 defeat in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.
With nine games remaining, Villa boss Steven Gerrard will want to finish the season strong by putting together a positive run of form and finishing as high up the standings as possible. Coming out of the international break, getting a win on Saturday would certainly set us on the right path.
Digne to return to Villa XI, two up top or Watkins on his own?
Villa will receive a key boost in defence, as after returning to action for France earlier in the week after recovering from his hamstring injury, Lucas Digne is expected to start at left-back again.
Emiliano Martinez, Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa and Matty Cash are all expected to be available for selection, and barring any late setbacks, it appears as though they will form the rest of the backline in a familiar looking quintet.
In midfield, the expectation is that Gerrard will go with Douglas Luiz again in the No.6 role despite ongoing criticism of the Brazilian’s weaknesses in that area of the pitch, but it would make a refreshing change if Morgan Sanson gets a chance to impress instead.
While it’s not the Frenchman’s more natural position, he has the characteristics and attributes to play well across the midfield, and so whether it’s even John McGinn who sits and Sanson pushes on, the hope is that we get to see more of that before the season is over.
Jacob Ramsey is likely to keep his place in the Villa starting line-up despite his struggle for form in recent weeks, as he bounced back with a stunning goal while with England U21s.
In turn, that leaves Gerrard with only one other major decision to make, and that is whether he goes with two up top in Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings, or drops one and sticks with a lone frontman.
For a derby away from home, it could be risky going with both Watkins and Ings even though that’s brought us success on the road previously, as we need more physicality, energy and presence in and around the midfield to impose ourselves and control proceedings as much as possible.
That is why it would be preferable to see both Emiliano Buendia and Philippe Coutinho start behind Watkins, although Gerrard has to also factor in travel during the break and so it remains to be seen if our Brazilian magician is fully fit to start.
Gerrard is likely to go with something a little different to the XI below, but ultimately it’s hoped that he lands on the winning combinations to see us get three important points this weekend.