By Tony Leighton
It's Saturday's npower Championship match of the day, but not for the reasons that would have been chosen by Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bristol City.
The bottom two clash at Molineux, with Wolves struggling to avoid a second successive relegation and rock bottom City fighting for their Championship lives again after finishing just two points above the drop zone last term.
As they head into the vital meeting, with the sides level on points, two recently appointed managers - Dean Saunders at Wolves and Sean O'Driscoll at Bristol City - are set to go head-to-head with contrasting records since being appointed at the respective clubs within three January days of each other.
Ironically, Wolverhampton-born and Wolves-supporting O'Driscoll was touted as a candidate for the Molineux hot seat before Saunders got the job ahead of him.
Wolves were 18th in the table and six points above the relegation zone at the time the former Doncaster Rovers boss took over, but they have taken just eight points from 11 games since he has been in charge to slide deep into trouble.
O'Driscoll has also overseen 11 games after arriving at Ashton Gate with his team stuck in the drop zone and eight points from safety. But the Robins have picked up 17 points from the 33 on offer and now look much improved.
They are unbeaten in their last four outings and the manager is playing down the importance of Saturday's clash, insisting that heading to the club he has always followed as a supporter is, "just somewhere we can get three points."
Saunders, on the other hand, sees the encounter as possibly pivotal to preventing Wolves from falling into League 1. "The players are all up for it," he said, "and they know that we have to fight and how important this game is.
"Bristol City are similar to us in that they have been struggling for a while, and so we can do them some damage. We have a couple of home games coming up [Middlesbrough are next up at Molineux] and I am focusing on getting six points.
"We have to get six points out of these next two games, and then maybe we will be a couple of wins from getting out of it. But we need to win four or five games, and we need to get that done quickly.
"It's all about strength of mind and character and standing up and playing when the chips are down. Wolves are a big club and the pressure is on, so I'm hoping we can get some wins and put the nervousness to bed.
"The fans have been frustrated, but they've stuck with the team and we need to get them on the edge of their seats by showing desire and fighting for every ball."
Saunders, Wolves' fourth manager in 11 months when he took charge, reckons that the players are accountable and must quickly turn things around. "The players have to get out of it [relegation trouble] themselves," he said.
"If you sat them all down I think they would all say that they haven't done enough, if they were honest. Eventually you change the mentality and the confidence comes back, but the difficulty for me is that we are running out of games and there is such a short period of time there is to change things.
"If we can stay up this year though, I can change it and we'll end up winning all the time. I just have to keep us in the league and then we can start again."
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