Football

Big Mick looking for a Big performance on derby day

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Mick McCarthy has a lot on his mind ahead of Sunday's derby at Molineux. Last weekend, his side let go of a half time lead at White Hart Lane and ceded their unbeaten start to the season. Now, he entertains an Aston Villa side who will be lifted by the arrival of their new manager.

Gerard Houllier may have ended his tenure at Liverpool on a low; but his 'treble' success in 2001 shows that he may just have what it takes to push Villa on to the next level. His main priority will be finishing in a Europa League place, whereas Wolves will be looking to avoid the relegation scrap. With that taken into consideration, if a team was to lose here, it could be a big blow when May arrives.

Hopefully, McCarthy will have been concentrating on the defence in training; his new strike force of Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher are doing well in front of goal and taking their chances when they can. Unfortunately, defensive frailties have cost them at least four points in the last two games and Wolves can ill-afford many more slip ups of this nature.

So, how do Wolves contain Villa's speedy attack and then break through a sturdy, experienced defence? The key players here are Ashley Young, Gabby Agbonlahor, Stephen Warnock, Stiliyan Petrov and Richard Dunne.

The entire Wolves back four has to defend stoutly, as a unit - given the sniff of a chance, Villa's strikers will punish you; especially with a new boss on the sidelines to impress. Karl Henry will, as always, be of vital importance - sitting in front of the back four and breaking up the play; frustrating the Villain's forwards.

Then, it's over to Wolves' attacking talent. Matt Jarvis, Doyle and Fletcher will have to use every opportunity to test Brad Freidel - and beating him is hard enough at the best of times. The strikers will need added support from their full-backs, but must be extremely wary of being hit on the break.

The task is by no means impossible though; Villa haven't exactly been on form away from home this season, having shipped six at Newcastle and lost 2-1 at the Britannia.

There is no doubt that Houllier's arrival will galvanise his players to perform well; a new manager's arrival has this effect at most clubs - but what Wolves can boast is a bit of stability.

McCarthy has been at the club for almost four years and the team know his brand of football; Houllier has come in with new ideas, tactics and staff and maybe, just maybe, this upheaval could work in the home side's favour.

It's not going to be easy, but local a local derby is the perfect way for Mick and his team to get back on the survival track after plummeting down the table in recent weeks.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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