Wolves travel south to the AMEX Stadium on Saturday evening following Tuesday’s bitter defeat at Old Trafford to take on a struggling Brighton side. The hosts have recently been dragged into a relegation fight and Wolves will look to capitalise on their poor from to get back to winning ways. The game will be behind closed doors and broadcast live on Sky Sports with kick off at 17:30 on Saturday evening.
Wolves were impressive in the defeat at Old Trafford and were incredibly unfortunate to leave empty handed. Youngsters Ki-Jana Hoever, Ryan Ait-Nouri and Vitinha all impressed but Wolves conceded a 93rd minute goal which saw them drop to 12th place in the Premier League. Wolves reverted to the more familiar back three system for the game against United, but it is likely that they will revert to a back four, last used in the draw at Tottenham for the game against Brighton as Wolves will have to be on the front foot for large parts of the game if they are to come away with all three points. It has been an inconsistent and frustrating few weeks as Wolves have alternated between the two formations with varying results against different levels of opponents. There was great reason for optimism after victories over Arsenal and Chelsea. But a hammering at Anfield and a poor performance away to a struggling Burnley side have meant Wolves have failed to gain any kind of momentum over the Christmas period with Nuno yet to find his best elven this season.
Brighton also played on Tuesday evening and lost by the same scoreline as Wolves, going down 1-0 at home to Arsenal. The result leaves them deep in trouble with the Seagulls winless in seven, their last victory coming away to Aston Villa in mid-December. During that run, Brighton have failed to beat struggling Fulham and Sheffield United sides but did claim an impressive point at home to Liverpool. The hosts sit 17th in the league, five places below Wolves and have won just twice all season. However, they are renowned for being difficult to beat, drawing a league-high seven league games this season.
Wolves’ injury list is about as long as it has been since Nuno was appointed Head Coach. Despite Jonny edging towards fitness, he remains out, alongside Raul Jimenez. It remains unlikely that both Leander Dendoncker and Willy Boly will be back either. Marcal picked up a knock in the draw at home to Tottenham and it is unclear as to whether he is back fit at this stage. Nelson Semedo, Daniel Podence and Fabio Silva were all rested for the game against Man United and they will more than likely be re-instated to the starting XI. Should Wolves revert to the 4 at the back formation, it is likely that Max Kilman will make way for the extra attacking player. Vitinha’s impressive first half at Old Trafford may well be enough to see him start in the advanced midfield role, linking the midfield and attack and supporting Fabio Silva where possible. Adama Traore has played 180 minutes in three days without producing anything to note and may drop to the bench to allow Daniel Podence to return. After a shaky start to the season, midfield duo Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho have been impressive of late and are likely to keep their place in the side. With the Premier League now allowing nine substitutes per matchday squad, a number of under-23 players will support the senior team due to Wolves’ growing injury problems.
Likely Line Up: Patricio, Semedo, Coady, Saiss, Ait-Nouri, Neves, Moutinho, Podence, Vitinha, Neto, Silva (Subs: Ruddy, Hoever, Kilman, Otasowie, Perry, Traore, Cundle, Corbeanu, Richards)
Brighton are without such injury problems and have been adopting a three at the back system of late, boasting a strong defence but struggling to create going forwards. Like Wolves, Brighton made several changes in midweek with an incredibly short turnaround between games over the Christmas schedule. Ben White, Solly March, Neal Maupay and Danny Welbeck were all substitutes against the Gunners and may all return to the starting XI to face Nuno’s men on Saturday.
Brighton are notoriously a ‘bogey side’ for Wolves and that is reflected in the head to head record. The sides have met on 34 occasions in competitive matches with Brighton coming out on top on 15 occasions. Interestingly, 13 have been draws with Wolves overcoming the Seagulls just six times. Wolves are yet to beat Brighton since their return to the Premier League with three draws and one defeat. The most recent game between them came at Molineux in February and was the last time Wolves played at home in front of supporters. The game was eventless and ended in a goalless draw, a carbon copy of the previous seasons encounter at Molineux. The reverse fixture at the AMEX also ended in a draw but was far more entertaining as Wolves drew 2-2 with a first half brace from Diogo Jota.
How we see it
On paper, the game is certainly not shaping up to be a thriller. Both sides struggle to score goals and are in desperate need of points all be it for different reasons. Brighton will look at the game with confidence and believe they can pick up a result, while Wolves can certainly take heart from the performance at Old Trafford and draw against Tottenham. The game is likely to be decided in Wolves’ final third. Brighton have a strong defensive record for a side sitting in 17th place with a relatively consistent back three of Ben White, Adam Webster and Lewis Dunk. Fabio Silva will need to be supported by those around him, particularly Podence and Neto in order to break down the stern Brighton defence. Brighton have strong aerial ability throughout the squad meaning Wolves will need to ensure they play to their own strengths, playing the ball to feet and aiming to use their technical ability to get past the Seagulls stern backline. If Wolves can combine the defensive solidarity and control that they showed for large parts of the game at Old Trafford while expressing themselves more going forwards as they did at home to Spurs, they may well come away with all three points in this one and pile the misery on Graham Potters side.
Prediction: Brighton 0-1 Wolves