Aston Villa boss Dean Smith is hoping Wolves’ hectic schedule catches up with them on Sunday.
Wolves return to Premier League action after their 1-0 win over Slovan Bratislava in the Europa League on Thursday by hosting Villa in a West Midlands derby.
For Nuno Espirito Santo’s side it will be their 24th game of the season while Villa have played 14. Smith wants Wolves to feel the fatigue.
“People will look from the outside and say ‘is it all going to catch up with them?’ with the amount of games they’re playing. We’re hopeful that it does on Sunday,” said Smith.
“I think our game (in the Carabao Cup) against them was their 21st game of the season. You can see the admiration the supporters have for the players and the staff, and deservedly so, because to finish seventh, get in the Europa League and to carry it on this season just shows how far they’ve come.”
The former Walsall manager came up against Wolves in the Championship with Brentford before beating a very youthful side in the Carabao Cup on October 30.
His Bees side came up against four different managers when facing Wolves. Brentford beat Kenny Jackett’s outfit 3-0 at home in February 2016, before losing 2-1 at Griffin Park to Walter Zenga’s side in the September of that year.
Smith’s Brentford lost 2-1 at home to Paul Lambert’s Wolves in March 2017 before they drew 0-0 against Nuno’s side in August 2017 then were beaten 3-0 in the return in March.
Smith is full of praise for the way Wolves have been transformed, and for Nuno’s input.
“You can only sit in admiration at what Wolves have done and what Nuno has done,” said the former Saddlers chief.
“I came up against them at Brentford when they were in the Championship and they got a really good squad together, got promoted, and to do what they did in their first season (back in the Premier League), hats off to them.”
Wolves finished seventh in their first season back in the top flight and are currently 12th, four places and two points above 16th-placed Villa.
Smith admits his envy at what Wolves have achieved, but says there are reasons why the clubs shouldn’t be compared.
“People will say ‘is that the blueprint for you?’ but I always say ‘clubs are different, pathways are different and owners are different in the way they want their clubs to go’,” he stressed.
“There will be reasons why we want to get to seventh but they will be different to Wolves’s.
“I’m certainly envious at what they have done, and I’ll try to do that with this club as well as soon as we can.
“But I think our way is going to be different to Wolves. People likened us to Fulham at the start of the season, but there are reasons why we did it (invest heavily in multiple signings) and they weren’t the same as Fulham’s.”
Apart from when both teams were recently in the Championship, Wolves are in the unusual position of being favourites against Villa, who boast by far the better record in meetings between them.
Wolves have won 39 to Villa’s 55, with 32 draws. In the Premier League, Wolves have only won one of the eight clashes.
Smith admits the much-changed line-ups for the recent Carabao Cup mean that game has no bearing on this one.
“We know it’s going to be one hell of a tough game there,” he said. “There were two very changed teams in the week in the Carabao Cup, but we overcame them and I felt we deserved that as well.
“But it’s going to be a different game at Molineux with different players. They’re very tough to beat. They’ve got great organisation, they’ve got great structure and they’ve got players who can score goals.
“They went to Manchester City and won, went to Arsenal and came away with a point after equalising, and they’ve been strong at home as well, so they’re in a run of form.”
Smith, who has beaten Birmingham, Albion and Wolves as Villa boss, grew up in the Villa stronghold of Great Barr where the main West Midlands rivalries were Villa-Birmingham and Villa-Albion. But he believes there is rivalry between Villa and Wolves.
“The local fans like to have the bragging rights,” he added. “I’m really looking forward to it. It will be a really good atmosphere, a really good game.
“It’s not a rivalry that Villa-Birmingham and Villa-West Brom has got because it’s a city further away, but there is a local rivalry there and hopefully we can come up trumps.”
Villa went into the last international break with a 5-1 win at Norwich and Smith is hoping for the same result – if not scoreline – at Molineux.
“I’m sure it won’t be a 5-1 but I’m sure we can get a winner somehow,” he said.