Everything you need to know as a former Blue resides over his first match as Aston Villa manager, a Midlands derby against Wolverhampton Wanderers, in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Following Wednesday night’s club announcement, former Birmingham City boss Steve Bruce takes charge of his new side for the first time, and is thrown straight in at the deep end as the Villains welcome Midlands rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers to Villa Park. Former Champions League winner Roberto Di Matteo was axed following a 2-0 loss at Preston North End, having achieved just one win this term despite a huge financial outlay this summer as new owner Dr. Tony Xia attempts to rebuild one of English football’s fallen giants. The Villains are not the only Midlands side under new ownership with Fosun International’s takeover of Wolverhampton Wanderers acting as the catalyst for an influx of 13 new signings this summer. Walter Zenga is, however, yet to find consistency in his new role, with Wolves following up consecutive wins with consecutive losses prior to the international break. Three points at the home of their neighbors on Saturday evening would certainly ease any pressure on the fiery Italian boss, with Fosun likely to give Zenga time to mould his diverse group of players into a cohesive unit. Villa could find themselves in the relegation zone come kick off, should a variety of results go against them, and Bruce will no doubt know the importance of making a positive start in order to reverse Villa’s alarming slide down the footballing pyramid.
Having picked up an injury in the second half of Di Matteo’s final game in charge, Villains midfielder Jack Grealish should be involved after starring for the England-under-21s as they trashed Bosnia & Herzegovina 5-0. Forward Jordan Ayew returned to the club after picking up an ‘unspecified injury’ whilst with the Ghanaian International team, and is a doubt for the game, although Bruce still has a plethora of attacking options available to him.
The travelling side could start with both Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Nouha Dicko for the first time. The Icelander missed Wolves’ previous two league games with a groin injury, both of which Zenga’s side lost by two goals to one. Dicko made his long-awaited return from injury as a second half substitute in Wanderer’s 2-1 home loss to Norwich, and after again impressing for the club’s under-23s in a Checkatrade trophy encounter with Crewe, could be handed his first start in over twelve months. Experienced defender Mike Williamson, Polish forward Michal Zyro and former Villa winger Jordan Graham all continue to be absent, with Graham expected to return to contention around Christmas time.
- Wanderers are unbeaten in their last three league visits to Villa Park, with their last win coming in March 2011, courtesy of a Matt Jarvis goal. They were last defeated on this ground in December 2003, when two goals from Juan Pablo Angel helped Villa to a 3-2 Premier League triumph in the first league meeting between the two sides for almost 20 years.
- Aston Villa have dropped 11 points from winning positions this season, with only Rotherham United and Nottingham Forest dropping more. Wolves have dropped a joint-low 2 points from winning positions, having conceded a 94th-minute equaliser in their 1-1 draw with Burton Albion last month.
- The Villains have recorded a league-high 7 draws, drawing all 5 league games that they played during the month of September.
- New Villa boss Steve Bruce is aiming for his fifth promotion from the second-tier, having accomplished the feat twice at both Hull City and Villa’s fierce rivals Birmingham City.
SkyBet make Bruce’s new charges 10/11 favourites to claim only their second win of the campaign, with the draw 12/5 and Zenga’s side 16/5. Ian Holloway’s tip for Jonathan Kodja to score first in a 1-1 draw is available at 25/1, while Nouha Dicko can be backed to net his first Championship goal since May 2015 at 11/4 to score in 90 minutes. With Wolves having recorded impressive away wins at Birmingham and Newcastle already this term, and Bruce having had little time to work with his new players, the 50/1 bet for the returning Jon Dadi Bodvarsson to score the only goal of the game is a bet that potentially offers fantastic value ahead of Saturday night’s encounter.