Writer: Ross Mackiewicz
Date:Friday August 26 2011
27th August 2011
Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish will be looking to make it three out of three tomorrow against Wolverhampton Wanderers, having won the two opening games at his new fortress.
Big Eck has began his Villa tenure in positive fashion but his side face a stern test tomorrow against a rejuvenated Wolves side that have won their two opening league games and sit a place above Villa in third.
Having survived relegation by the skin of their teeth last season, Mick McCarthy has strengthened his team in the summer transfer window - notably with the acquisition of Roger Johnson from our rivals Birmingham City and the permanent signing of Jamie O`Hara from Spurs. They look a far more accomplished outfit this season compared to last where they took all three points in their visit to Villa Park. It turned out to be their first win on our turf for 31 years thanks to a Matt Jarvis stunner.
That defeat really stung the Villa faithful in what was a mediocre season littered with disappointment. Having started this campaign undefeated and having the pleasure of sitting momentarily at the summit of the Premier League table, there is a real sense of optimism under the new manager. It will be interesting to see if he makes a change or two for the game, having stuck with the same line-up in the last two league games before ringing the changes in our League Cup win over Hereford United in the week.
There are doubts over the fitness of strike pair Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey. Whether or not that will alter the formation remains to be seen but Eck is confident both will be fine for the game.
McLeish has said this week that he is not concerned over the attendance of last week`s game against Blackburn Rovers. A crowd of just 32,319 - small in terms of a home game- witnessed our 3-1 win. Nevertheless, this is no source of concern for the Scot who believes the stadium will be packed to the rafters as the season rolls on:
'I think success and winning breeds confidence and that will surely encourage the fans to fill the stadium.`
'I`m sure that at this club a lot of the games will be full capacity, without a shadow of a doubt. You can`t expect them to fill the stadium every single week, but it will definitely happen at times. It was a proud moment for myself and my family.`
The gaffer is also keen not to get too carried away by our positive start:
'It`s early days, as you rightly know. We have four points from a possible six in the first two games of the season. If we can keep that kind of progress going we can have a good season.`
'We know there are a lot of tough challenges ahead, but we`re up for it. I`m not shouting from the rooftops saying we`re going to do this and do that. We have made some good progress in the first two games of the Premier League in what will be a very tough season for everybody. The challenge is ahead of us and something that we all relish in this game and we`re privileged to be a part of it.
'There`s nothing like winning football matches and seeing some good performances to build confidence.`
As for the visitors, their midfield man Karl Henry has talked up the game.
He is positive that he and his peers can make it a tricky afternoon for us:
'Villa is a tough game as they all are. But I'm sure we can make it difficult for them as well. We've done OK at Villa Park since getting into the league, drawing one and winning one, and it's a place we enjoy going to play.`
There are still slight concerns over the fitness of Gabby and Emile but both should be fit. Luke Young has been struggling with a twinge to his knee and will be assessed today and tomorrow before a decision is made on his involvement. Eric Lichaj who scored in midweek may take his place.
Fab by name and fab by nature. The youngster has impressed in his last two outings, picking up the man of the match award last weekend. He will face efficient adversaries in the likes of Henry and O`Hara who will look to get stuck in and ruffle a few feathers.
Regardless, Fabian is no shrinking violet. Despite his lean physique he will make his presence known to those in gold and black.
Striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake faces a month on the sidelines after damaging his medial knee ligaments. The former Manchester United prodigy picked up the injury in Wolves` 4-0 drumming of Northampton Town in the Carling Cup on Tuesday night, where he also bagged a brace.
Adlene Guedioura and David Edwards are both still sidelined.
The Villans will not forget the 25-year-old in a hurry after he scored an absolute pearler in his team`s victory over us back in March. His stunning volleyed effort on the edge of the 18-yard box had former goalkeeper Brad Friedel beaten all ends up. He also netted against us in the game at Molineux but thankfully we took the spoils on that occasion.
Villa will need to keep an eye on the England hopeful as he has the capability to bamboozle the opposition with his quick feet and burst of pace. He is technically sound with good short and long distribution.
He will be a handful.
The defeat to Wolves back in March was our last in all competitive competitions.
Only one of the six Premier League meetings between Villa and Wolves has ended up with a home win.
Huge test of steel for the boys in claret and blue. Wolves will look to upset the apple cart with their physical presence but are also more than capable at hurting us on the attack with striker Kevin Doyle looking to get in on the thick of things.
Regardless, I think we will edge this by just the one goal.
1-0 to the Villa but it will be far from easy!
A trip to Goodison Park against Everton after the international break on 10th September.
Meanwhile guys you can catch up with me for a chat on all things claret and blue on Twitter.
Date:Friday August 26 2011
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