Super Sunday’s first offering comes from Molineux where Wolves host Aston Villa at 2pm in a Midlands Derby. The sides met just two weeks ago, where Villa overcame a much-changed Wolves side 2-1 courtesy of Anwar El-Ghazi and Ahmed El-Mohamady’s goals in the Carabao Cup, however the rotation and lack of importance means not too much can be read into it.
The fixtures have been adding up for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, and after Thursday’s late win against Slovan Bratislava, Wolves will be looking to head into the International break with a win, which could lift them into the top half of the table.
Aston Villa come into the game lying 16th in the league after two straight defeats, however they competed for long periods against Manchester City and Liverpool, and will be looking to bounce back at Molineux. Currently three points above the drop, a win would see them shoot up the table, and leave them in a strong position heading into the International break.
The game throws up an interesting tactical proposition for both sides, as Wolves 3-4-3 comes up against the 4-3-3 of Villa.
Santos has shown tactical flexibility this season, with a willingness to switch between a 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 depending on the opposition, as well as during games. Last time out saw Santos’ side line up in a 3-4-3, as Wolves looked to target the flanks of a narrow Arsenal side. This worked well, with 76% of attacks going down the wings, exposing Arsenal’s 4-3-1-2 formation, and it could be a similar story once again against a Villa side who like to pack central areas, utilising the wings on the break. Against Arsenal, Wolves managed 24 shots and an expected goals of 1.51, and these are promising attacking signs
The team Dean Smith picks could determine the wing that Wolves look to target the most, as in Diego Jota and Adama Traore, they possess two of the best dribblers and most direct wingers in the league, as well as the pace to stretch any defence. Matt Doherty and Jonny are expected to start at wing backs, and their energy and willingness to get beyond their wingers will be key, especially when coming up against Trezeguet or El-Ghazi, who’s defensive work has at times been questionable. In the 0-0 draw against West Ham, the Hammers looked to target El-Ghazi on a number of occasions, and were unlucky not to score through exploiting this opening. In the past two matches, Smith has responded to this threat by employing Douglas Luiz on the left of a midfield three to offer his full back more protection and allow either Jack Grealish or the aforementioned wingers the license to counter, as well as reduce their defensive workload. Luiz will be key to shutting down the passing avenues to the wings from Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, and if they can do this effectively, will go a long way to stifling the threat of Wolves.
Raul Jimenez comes up against the settled centre half pairing of Tyrone Mings and Bjorn Engels, and this promises to be an interesting battle. Both are strong in the air, shown by them winning 2.4 and 3.2 aerial duels per game. However, for Manchester City’s opener two weeks ago, there were worrying signs as Mings was beaten far too easily by Gabriel Jesus in the air, and this freed up Raheem Sterling to slot home running off his full back, and if Jimenez is able to dominate in the air, the frightening pace of both Wolves wide men could come into play.
Aston Villa have showcased their ability on the counter attack in recent weeks, and it would be no surprise to see them attempt to utilise this once again on Sunday. Wesley has impressed in the start to his Villa career with four goals, and he will have a key role once again. Coming up against the three Wolves centre backs, he will need to ensure he doesn’t get isolated, which was the case against both City and Liverpool, and in order to do this his hold up play will need to be strong. John McGinn and Luiz, alongside the wingers, will have a huge role to play, and McGinn in particular has impressed in his box to box role this season. With three goals, 2.9 shots per game, 2.5 dribbles per game and 1.4 key passes per game, he shows his all round ability when attacking.
Both sides full backs look to press on and provide overlaps out wide, and in doing so for Villa they will look to move around the makeshift back three of Wolves. With Willy Boly missing with an ankle injury, Leander Dendoncker and Romain Saiss were preferred alongside Connor Coady against Villa, and this could be area Villa look to target. Wesley will need to ensure he doesn’t get isolated for Villa up against the three, however the onrushing midfielders and pace of El-Ghazi should cause the Wolves backline problems, and Villa will certainly be a threat on the counter.
As discussed above, both sides like to target wide areas, and as a result this makes the corners market particularly interesting. The 2v1s Wolves will be able to create, coupled with the lack of tracking back from Villa’s wide men, means that they should be able to accumulate a number of corners. Although both are averaging low corner counts for this season but conceding plenty, and this game does appear to be more pointed in a tactical sense for this, and as a result corners could represent value. With Wolves averaging 4.55 for and 6.18 against, whilst Villa averaging 4.27 for and 8.36 against, it is worth considering Wolves’ tactics in the second half against a compact Newcastle side that brought six corners, particularly when Doherty and Traore started linking well down the right flank. Available at 2.10 (Betfair), Wolves to take over 6.5 corners is appealing as a result.
Referee for the day is Anthony Taylor, who’s 15 games this season have produced 73 yellow cards and three red. The card markets appeal, particularly in a game where both sides will look to attack at pace, particularly with the Wolves attackers and their dribbling ability. Available at 2.37 (Bet365), each side over 1.5 cards takes appeal, as the frantic nature of a local derby, and card happy referee, appeals to a stretched game and a high volume of fouls to break up the play