Wolves return to action after a 3-week break to face West Ham at Molineux. David Moyes’ side are in form and could move into the Champions League places with a win, while one more win for Wolves is likely to be enough to see them safe. The game will be behind closed doors and broadcast live on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football with a 20:15 kick off.
It seems an age since Diogo Jota’s shot squirmed past Rui Patricio and Wolves were denied a clear-cut penalty in the home defeat to Liverpool, and that’s because it was. Exactly three weeks to the day Wolves are back in action as they look for what would be their first win in five, following two defeats and two draws in the last four outings, all be it with defeats coming against Liverpool and Manchester City. In the bigger picture, Wolves have only lost two games in their last eight, following a good run of form in February. Despite some impressive results, Wolves have been far from entertaining to watch of late, but the spirited performance against Liverpool was certainly one of the better ones, something Nuno may use as the blueprint for the remainder of the season.
The Hammers have had an incredible season and a win at Molineux could see them climb into the top 4 with just eight games remaining. However, the London side will be kicking themselves with the points they dropped in their last outing having been 3-0 up at home to Arsenal, only for the Gunners to stage a stunning comeback and take a point. West Ham were unlucky not to take points in defeats to the top two, Manchester City and Manchester United in recent weeks prior to the Arsenal game, but did manage to beat the impressive Leeds United with relative ease at the London Stadium.
There is much uncertainty surrounding the Wolves line up ahead of the game against West Ham, with Nuno reporting players coming back from international duty with ‘minor problems’, while one senior player is self-isolating following COVID-19 protocols, but the identity of these players has not been revealed. However, when Nuno delivers these vague comments in press conferences, more often than not the players do end up available for selection. Two players who will not be in contention are Raul Jimenez and Daniel Podence. The pair are both back in training, but neither are taking part in full contact games with Podence’s injury lay off longer than was initially expected. Many have called for Nuno to experiment for the remaining nine games of the season, with Wolves seemingly having little to play for. Portuguese wonderkid Vitinha has sparked rave reviews at the Under-21 European Championships, leaving many Wolves fans confused as to why he hasn’t played more minutes in a Wolves midfield that have struggled for creativity this season. While players such as Vitinha and Ait-Nouri may receive more game time in the coming weeks, it is unlikely Nuno will revisit the 4 at the back formation until pre-season.
Likely Line Up: Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Semedo, Moutinho, Neves, Jonny, Neto, Jose, Traore (Subs: Ruddy, Hoever, Ait-Nouri, Dendoncker, Kilman, Gibbs-White, Vitinha, Otasowie, Silva)
West Ham have deviated between a back four and back five throughout the season and, unlike Wolves, done this to great success. West Ham are set to welcome back Arthur Masuaku from injury, a player who is a key part of their back five formation. It is likely that David Moyes will match Wolves if Masuaku is fit to start. Despite this, the Scotsman remains without Darren Randolph, Angelo Ogbonna and Andriy Yarmalenko for the trip to the Black Country. West Ham have been boosted by the January signing of Jesse Lingard from Manchester United, whose impressive performances earned him a place alongside Conor Coady in Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
The sides have met on 66 occasions in competitive games, with West Ham coming out on top winning almost half of these (30). Wolves have been victorious against their London opponents 22 times with the remaining 14 being all square. Since Wolves’ return to the Premier League in 2018, they have an excellent record against the Hammers, winning all four fixtures in the previous two seasons including Wolves’ first victory back in the topflight, a 1-0 win at the London Stadium. Despite this, the most recent encounter was a stark contrast, with the Hammers running out 4-0 winners early in the season at the London Stadium. Wolves were well beaten in all areas of the pitch, and the game provided a warning for fans that this season was not going to be of the same standard as the previous two in the Premier League.
How you see it
As has been the case for the majority of the season, this game is incredibly hard to predict. Both sides have an element of Jekyll and Hyde about them. Unfortunately, West Ham have more of a Jekyll and Wolves more of a Hyde. The game will hinge on how well Wolves deal with the pace and power of the away sides front line. Jesse Lingard and Michal Antonio will certainly cause problems, but with the Wolves first choice back three all fit and expected to start, meaning this is something Wolves have the ability to combat. The midfield will certainly need to watch the runs from midfield, with Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice providing a threat in the box all season. If Wolves can deal with this, they have every chance of taking something from the game but could run into familiar problems going forwards with the lack of a goal threat. I think Wolves have enough to deal with the strengths of West Ham if they are on their game, but the inability to score goals means this one could well end all square.
Prediction: Wolves 1-1 West Ham