The international break felt like a lifetime, but they always do. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to see Bailey fully fit, and of course Traoré picked up a quad injury himself with Burkina Faso. So, it’s 3-5-2 again for visiting Wolves, which will probably send some into a frenzy.
In December of 2009, just shy of 12 years ago, Villa beat United 1-0 at Old Trafford. Since then, they’ve managed just four draws. In the previous decade? Three draws. One win in the last 45. Not a lot to hang your hat on. Probabilistically, though, that’s a reason for optimism.
In the end, an excellent performance and Villa were perhaps unlucky not to win in regular time. For all the changes, absences, and youth, the team seemed to know what they were doing, and the mentality was really good. I expected more timidity and hesitation. It wasn’t there, or if it was, not for long. The set-up looks good.
Short answer, it might. Given the differences in squad depth and fitness, Villa will inevitably field a weaker side than the one that lost to Chelsea 0-3 just over a week ago. Smith has said all the right things about the quality available to both sides, and how they both want to win and progress. But it’s clear that Villa will have one hand tied behind their back.
No one knows how Villa will approach the match. If it were me, I’d probably lean toward playing this one in two phases, perhaps by starting 4-5-1, trying to blunt Chelsea, then look to get more attacking in the second. But that’s me.
The question is whether Smith will want to go all in for grabbing the first, or keep his powder dry, go for 0-0 as long as possible, and then throw on more firepower? Not at all sure he’ll want to start out with a combination that’s barely played together against such a strong side, however much he might want to see them all together.