Wolves will look to build on their much-needed win against Southampton as they face high-flying Leeds United at Molineux on Friday night. Marcelo Bielsa’s have enjoyed an impressive start to life in the Premier League, sitting one place above Wolves with a game in hand. The game will be behind closed doors and broadcast live on BT Sport with a 20:00 kick off.
Wolves’ victory over Southampton made it an impressive seven points out of a possible nine in the last three Premier League games for Wolves. However, the bitterly disappointing FA Cup exit last Thursday made the win on the south coast all the more important. Wolves’ performances are far from perfect but are improving following a disastrous run of results in January. Since the goalless draw at Chelsea, Wolves have lost just one league game and have eased any fears of being dragged into a relegation battle as they now look to climb back into the top half. Wolves’ recent upturn in form has been made all the more impressive with the continued absence of Willy Boly and Daniel Podence, while Jonny Otto has been re-introduced to the starting eleven.
Leeds’ recent form is inconsistent to say the least and it mirrors their results across the season so far. The Premier League newcomers have earned a vast array of praise for the open, attacking style of play. While they are certainly an entertaining watch, they are often left vulnerable in defence meaning they have been on the wrong end of heavy defeats this season, the most recent a 4-2 loss at Arsenal last weekend. Leeds also lost out to in-form Everton the previous week but have earned impressive wins against Leicester and Crystal Palace in recent weeks too. They sit just two points above Wolves but do have a game in hand which they will play against Southampton on Tuesday evening.
After months of inconsistency, Wolves have finally found some form and they have done so predominantly by playing a back three. With the exception of the home win against Arsenal in which Wolves could easily have been 4-0 down at half time, Nuno’s men have looked relatively solid when going back to the more familiar formation. This does however, come as some cost as they are often far less exciting to watch when playing this formation, but the second half performances of Pedro Neto and Adama Traore at Southampton on Sunday leave plenty of room for optimism. Nuno made a tactical switch at half time, telling the two to play narrower, switching to their less familiar sides which ultimately encouraged the pair to play more centrally and closer to Willian Jose. This is something we are likely to see from the off against Leeds as Wolves were far more creative and able to keep possession higher up the pitch. There are no fresh injury concerns ahead of the game with Jonny Otto now likely to be able to play the full 90 minutes following his remarkable recovery from the ACL injury he picked up in July. Marcal is also back fit and available for selection having played the closing stages at Southampton. In the absence of Wily Boly, Leander Dendoncker is likely to keep his place on the right-hand side of defence, despite Max Kilman’s impressive form while Romain Saiss was side-lined.
Likely Line Up: Patricio, Dendoncker, Coady, Saiss, Semedo, Moutinho, Neves, Jonny, Neto, Jose, Traore (Subs: Ruddy, Hoever, Ait-Nouri, Marcal, Kilman, Gibbs-White, Vitinha, Otasowie, Silva)
Leeds are without key players Kevin Phillips and Rodrigo. Phillips especially will be a huge miss for Marcelo Bielsa’s side, as they have no direct replacement for his specific role in the team. The re-shuffle of structure against Arsenal did not pay off and Leeds looked incredibly vulnerable defensively. Luke Ayling struggled at centre back and this is something Wolves will certainly be looking to take advantage of. Klich and Llorente are both back fit and expected to be part of the squad.
The sides have met 89 times in competitive games, Wolves coming out on top on 33 occasions while Leeds have won 35. This shows that honours have been relatively even between the two historic sides who have both had their stints at the pinnacle of English football. In more recent years, Wolves have had the better of the Yorkshire outfit, beating them twice with an aggregate score of 7-0 in the Championship winning season, while also edging bast them earlier in the season as a deflected Raul Jimenez’s strike gave Wolves all three points at Elland Road early in the season.
As is often the case with Wolves this season, this game is incredibly hard to predict and could quite easily go either way. Both sides are without key players and have had their own difficulties in recent months. The game is likely to hinge on Wolves’ defensive solidarity. If they can display the defensive prowess seen against Chelsea, Leicester and at times against Southampton, Wolves have every chance of claiming all three points. Leeds are vulnerable at the back at the best of times, and with the absence of Kalvin Phillips in front of the back four, Neto and Traore will certainly fancy their chances. If Wolves can prevent the away side from creating, and slow down their high intensity and tempo, the game will be Wolves’ for the taking and I’m backing them to do the double over Leeds at Molineux. Fail to do this however, and it could be a night to forget for Wolves.
Prediction: Wolves 2-1 Leeds