Wolves host Burnley live on the BBC this Sunday and will look to make it three wins on the bounce for the first time this season. Nuno’s men have all but secured safety with recent victories over Fulham and Sheffield United, and could draw level on points with local rivals Aston Villa with victory at Molineux.
Last Saturday’s victory over Sheffield United wasn’t exactly one to get the adrenaline going. Perhaps a Saturday night kick off in front of a packed Molineux may have made it more bearable, but in truth it was yet another lacklustre performance. There were positives for sure, most obviously Willian Jose’s first goal for Wolves and yet another assist for Adama Traore. It also meant Wolves had secured back-to-back wins after a five-game winless run and were now comfortable in mid table. The chance of a top half finish remains alive, but Wolves will have to improve their performance levels if they are to continue their winning run to the end of the season.
Burnley have lost their last three games, the most recent of which was a spirited 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford last Sunday. The Clarets are not mathematically safe but will think that one more win should be enough. A run of 4 without defeat including an impressive win away at Everton steered Sean Dyche’s side towards safety as they look to secure yet another topflight season.
Wolves will welcome back Ruben Neves after he has completed his isolation after contracting COVID-19. Having missed the majority of training leading up to the game, Nuno is likely to stick with the midfield pairing of Leander Dendoncker and Joao Moutinho, with Neves taking his place on the substitute bench. Nuno reverted to a back three formation against Sheffield United and may stick with this to ensure Wolves have the height and physicality to combat Burnley’s strengths. The likes of Boly, Saiss, Dendoncker and Jose will all be needed at set pieces where many of Burnley’s goals tend to come from. With safety all but secured, many fans are calling for the likes of Vitinha, Otasowie and Silva to be given more game time, and there is certainly an argument for that. If Nuno opted to go with Vitinha and Silva, Wolves’ focus would be on themselves, and trying to use their technical ability to get round Burnley rather than focusing the opposition’s strengths. However, given Nuno’s track record when it comes to team selection, the former is far more likely.
Likely Line Up: Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Semedo, Moutinho, Dendoncker, Ait-Nouri, Podence, Jose, Traore (Subs: Ruddy, Hoever, Neves, Kilman, Gibbs-White, Vitinha, Otasowie, Silva)
Burnley are without key players Robbie Brady and Ashley Barnes for the trip to Molineux, but otherwise have a clean bill of health. For the most part, Burnley play with a 4-4-2 but do occasionally change to a 4-5-1 for away games. Dyche opted for a midfield five for the defeat at Old Trafford and Burnley put in a balanced and promising performance. Had Marcus Rashford strike not deflected in late on, Burnley could easily have taken a point. However, given Wolves’ inability of playing against Burnley’s front two in recent seasons, it is more than possible the away side will revert to a 4-4-2 for the trip to the Midlands.
As two founder members of the Football League, Burnley and Wolves have played 134 competitive games against each other with Wolves often gaining the upper hand, winning 66 of those encounters. The Clarets have won just 39 of those games but have certainly come out on top in more recent history. Wolves have beaten the Lancashire side just once, a victory which was Wolves’ first home win in the Premier League following promotion in 2018. Raul Jimenez’s second half strike gave Nuno’s men all three points. However, that is Wolves’ only victory over Burnley since 2010, with both games ending all square last season, and Burnley edging past Wolves in December.
Despite its Sunday afternoon slot on the BBC, this game is unlikely to capture the attention of many neutrals. Neither side have been particularly good to watch this season. Wolves’ victory over Sheffield United was far from a thriller, but it was also good to see Wolves get all three points when not playing at their best, something they have done well in the previous two seasons but a trait that has gone amiss this season. As mentioned, Wolves have struggled to cope with Burnley at both ends of the pitch in recent seasons, finding it difficult to break down a stern and determined defence while also facing difficulties against the physicality they pose in the area. Wolves have improved since their poor showing at Turf Moor in December, particularly defensively. They will know what to expect and I would like to think they will keep Burnley’s threats to a minimum but based on recent performances it is hard to see Wolves breaking down the Burnley defence and going on to win the game.
Prediction: Wolves 1-1 Burnley