Former Sevilla coaches Unai Emery and Julen Lopetegui are both eagerly anticipating their first Premier League meeting since joining Midlands rivals Aston Villa and Wolves.
Emery recorded his third win since taking charge of Villa against Tottenham on New Year’s Day, while Lopetegui suffered his first defeat as Wolves boss against Manchester United one day earlier.
Both Emery and Lopetegui built their reputations by leading Sevilla to Europa League glory, and the two Spaniards are both enthusiastic at the prospect of facing off in England.
“He’s a very good coach,” Emery said of Lopetegui. “He has good experience and he decided to come to the Premier League.
“I think that’s fantastic because to play against teams he manages is a big challenge. He demands a lot with his style.
“Against Wolves, it’s a derby and I think it’s going to be a very good match in our stadium with our supporters. We will enjoy it with them.
“We’re going to prepare in the best way possible to show them our progress.”
Lopetegui said: “We know each other a lot. He’s from the same part of Spain, the Basque Country, so I know him a lot and he knows me a lot, so tomorrow we are going to find each other again.
“I think he’s a very good coach, he has showed this in England, in Spain and in France, and he’s doing a very good job in his short amount of time at Aston Villa.
“He’s improved them a lot, in my opinion, and I wish him the best, but not for tomorrow.
“We are neighbours in our country, and I think that we have a big respect for each other. But tomorrow, we will have different responsibilities and different teams, and each of us want to win.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aston Villa – Danny Ings
Aston Villa striker Ings has been involved in four goals in his last five Premier League appearances against Wolves (three goals, one assist). In all competitions, he has netted in his last three games against them (three goals).
Wolves – Matheus Cunha
No Premier League team has scored fewer than Wolves’ 10 goals this season. If they are to turn their dire campaign around, new arrival Cunha – who netted seven times in an 18-month spell with Atletico Madrid – may need to hit the ground running.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Aston Villa haven’t won any of their last six Premier League home games against Wolves (D3 L3), alternating between a draw and a defeat each time (lost 3-2 last season).
– Wolves did the league double over Aston Villa last season, last winning three in a row against them between April 1957 and December 1960 (a run of seven).
– Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui and Aston Villa’s Unai Emery have already faced off once this season in LaLiga, with Villarreal drawing 1-1 with Sevilla in September. It’s the first time ever that two managers have faced off in both the Premier League and LaLiga in the same season.
– Aston Villa boss Unai Emery has never beaten Wolves in the Premier League in three attempts (D2 L1), only facing Recreativo and Liverpool more often in his top-flight managerial career without winning (four apiece).
– Ollie Watkins has been involved in at least one goal in his last three home Premier League appearances (two goals, one assist), including scoring but ending on the losing side in a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool in Villa’s final home game of 2022. Watkins has now lost in five home Premier League games he’s scored in for Aston Villa, with only Christian Benteke losing more games he’s scored in at Villa Park in the Premier League (six).