Wolves travel to the home of the reigning Champions Liverpool on Sunday afternoon and head there on the back of two impressive performances having tweaked formation in recent games against Southampton and Arsenal. Jurgen Klopp is facing an injury nightmare on Merseyside meaning Wolves will head there more confident than ever at achieving a result. The game is broadcast live on Sky Sport, kick off at 7:15 PM.
Wolves were very impressive under exceptionally difficult circumstances last time out away to Arsenal. Having lost Raul Jimenez following a serious collision early on, Wolves rallied and produced an excellent performance and, despite a nervy final ten minutes, came home with all three points after goals from Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the game was the fact that Wolves could easily have been out of sight prior to a late spell of Arsenal pressure, mainly thanks to the increased amount of attacking talent which is a result of a change in formation. The 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 has certainly created a ‘new-look’ Wolves who are far more ambitious and comfortable in possession.
It is as if the vision of Nuno in the summer to evolve the style of play in order to take Wolves to the next level is finally coming to fruition through this change. It has been far from perfect however, with the solidity the previous 3-man defence brought now lacking a little. This was more evident in the draw at home to Southampton where Wolves conceded numerous clear-cut chances. However, there were signs of improvement on this front against Arsenal and Wolves will need to be at their best defensively if they are to take anything away from Anfield on Sunday.
Liverpool have made a positive start to their title defence and currently sit in 2nd place on the same number of points as 1st placed Tottenham. Liverpool have also qualified for the latter stages of the Champions League. Many would expect such a start from Liverpool, but the fact they have done so amid a plethora of injury problems has mad their results far more impressive. However, more recently the Reds have struggled, something Wolves will look to capitalise on. After a shock home defeat to Atalanta in the Champions League, Brighton took a deserved point from Liverpool in the league last week. A point which in truth, could have been more after the hosts missed an early penalty. Liverpool did get back to winning ways against Ajax in midweek, but they were far from convincing and had 3rd choice goalkeeper Kelleher to thank.
Despite many defensive injuries Liverpool still possesses an array of attacking talent including the inform Diogo Jota. Wolves fans will certainly fear the worst when he takes to the field on Sunday after a blistering start to his Anfield career, However, no one will understand Jota more than this Wolves side who will be confident in dealing with his threat. 2,000 fans will be present at Anfield too, a welcome sight for English football and this could give Liverpool an inkling of home advantage. This will be the first time Wolves have played in front of any fans in a stadium since a 0-0 draw with Brighton at Molineux in March.
Despite two positive performances playing with 4 at the back, it would be hardly surprising to see Nuno revert to the tried and trusted 3 at the back system in order to combat the attacking threat of Liverpool. However, given the host’s multiple injury problems, particularly in defence, Wolves will want as many attacking players on the pitch as possible in order to combat this weakness. Having looked solid for large parts of the Arsenal game, many fans worries over a possibly leaky element to a back four have diminished, especially with the option to now switch between formations in-game depending on the challenges Wolves face at each part of the game.
Traore, Podence and Neto will have huge responsibility once again to create going forwards but also to fulfil their defensive duties in order to prevent Liverpool upping the intensity when in possession going forward. Fabio Silva is likely to start upfront with no obvious back up to the young Portuguese star. Theo Corbeanu has been in fine form for the Under 23’s and could perhaps take a place on the bench to ensure there is at least one other option for Nuno if needed.
Likely Line Up: Patricio, Semedo, Coady, Boly, Marcal, Moutinho, Dendoncker, Traore, Podence, Neto, Silva. (Subs: Ruddy, Kilman, Ait-Nouri, Hoever, Neves, Vitinha, Corbeanu)
Liverpool are without many first team players for the game on Sunday, including Virgin Van Dijk, Thiago, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joe Gomez, Xherdan Shaqiri, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Naby Keita, James Milner and Alisson while Andrew Robertson faces a late fitness test. Young Irish goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher started in goal in the win against Ajax and was impressive while keeping a clean sheet leading many to believe he will be between the sticks for his Premier League debut. Despite the injury nightmare, Liverpool’s front line remains intact aided by the addition of Diogo Jota, with all four of the well-known strike force likely to start against Nuno’s men on Sunday.
Head to head
Wolves and Liverpool have met on 116 occasions in all competitions with Liverpool coming out on top 53 times. Wolves have however been victorious on 36 occasions, the most recent of which at Anfield came in the FA Cup in 2016 where Paul Lambert’s Wolves defeated the Reds 2-1 to progress. Wolves did beat Liverpool in the same competition two years later at Molineux with goals from Raul Jimenez and Ruben Neves.
Since returning to the Premier League, Liverpool have won all four encounters in the league, but Wolves were left scratching their heads as to how this was the case last season. Wolves were extremely unlucky to have an equaliser disallowed at Anfield after a marginal offside call against Jonny Otto. In the return game at Molineux in January Wolves were excellent and fully deserving of a point from the game, only for Firmino to score a late winner.
It will certainly be an intriguing test for Wolves, and a completely different one to anything they have faced since changing formation. It will no doubt be a real test for Nuno’s men especially defensively but one which they will be looking forward to. It will also be a marker of just how far Wolves have come in recent weeks, but of course it is impossible to ignore to absence of Raul Jimenez.
I believe that the game will be open and with the attacking threat both sides possess, could be a very good watch, this is not something you would have said about Wolves a matter of weeks ago. It is likely that Liverpool’s attacking threat will be a bridge too far for Wolves but given their record against in big sides in recent years, Wolves certainly aren’t a bad bet to come away with something.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Wolves