Saddlers make the short trip up to North Staffs with a fair few injury problems, something that Merson has rarely encountered in his managerial career. Merson has drafted in 19 year old Southampton left-winger Simon Gillett as reinforcements.
Merson himself, Wrack and Daryl Taylor are out long term, restricting the wide midfield options, while Mark Wright may have to cover full-back in the absence of suspended Pead.
Any possibility of reverting to 3-5-2 also seems slim with Staunton injured again and Roper still not 100%.
Gillett will likely contest the left midfield spot with Kris Taylor who was spent spend Tuesday night sitting in the naughty corner after an alleged spat with Merse making the preferred option a midfield four with either Leitao or Husbands on the right â€“ but as ever, take your guesses.
Unfortunately the days when a trip to Vale Park was the biggest nailed on away win of the season are consigned to nostalgia, and Vale are an awkward proposition on their own patch. Young on-loan Wolves forward Chris Cornes was their hero with a mid-week brace against Oldham, he celebrated by signing for another month and could start should Nathan Lowndes fail to shake off the injury that kept him out of that game.
Vale have problems similar to Walsall with injuries on the left side of midfield and a suspension for ex- Saddler Tony Dinning. One old boy who should figure is Danny Sonner as they bid for a first win in four starts.
Predictions? Vale will be in white and the is about as confident as it gets, but I wouldnâ€™t be surprised to see a low scoring draw between two sides struggling with injuries to their attacking options.
As for the derby atmosphere for a fixture once described by Jasper Carrott as the midlands equivalent of Rangers/Celtic, that might be down to how many Saddlers travel, as Vale pulled in a mere 3,700 on Tuesday night, prompting their chairman to question the long-term future of the club.