Two of the Premier League’s current underachievers go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon as Wolverhampton Wanderers host fellow Midlands club Leicester City at the Molineux.
Wolves succumbed to a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park during the midweek fixtures, while the Foxes comfortably beat fellow struggles Leeds United on home turf.
Wolves announced recently that interim coach Steve Davis will stay on as manager until 2023. following the sacking of Bruno Lage, and the rejections to the vacant position from Michael Beale at QPR and Julen Lopetegui who cited family reasons for not stepping in.
Fortunes have not improved for Wolves since the sacking of Lage, with only one win from five games losing the other four, including defeats versus Chelsea and Crystal Palace. Their only three points was the underwhelming 1-0 success over Nottingham Forest on home turf, thanks to a Ruben Neves penalty.
They are currently the joint-lowest scoring side in all of England’s top four division with just five goals, along with Gillingham in League Two, hence there desperate signing of former Chelsea and Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa on a free, a move which hasn’t bore any fruit as of yet.
The club have been unfortunate with injuries, with both Sasa Kalajdzic and Raul Jimenez on the injury table for the long-term and Davis will be heavily reliant on the likes of Adama Traore who bagged his first league of the season against Palace, Goncalo Guedes, Daniel Podence and Matheus Nunes to drive his team up the table.
And Wolves will be heading into this fixture with some optimism, as the Foxes are yet to pick up a single point away from home this campaign.
Win over Leeds United pulled the rug over a disappointing outing at the Vitality Stadium losing to manager-less Bournemouth last weekend.
However, the Foxes cannot be scrutinised for their goal output scoring more goals than any side in the bottom half, but sitting in 19th place is an indication that Rodgers’ talented unit are underperforming. And the omens are not looking good heading to the Molinuex as Leicester have failed to win all five of their Premier League visits (D2, L3).
WHERE & WHEN?
Venue: Molineux Stadium.
Date: Sunday, 23rd October 2022.
Time: 14:00PM. (BST)
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistant referee: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett.
Fourth official: Andy Madley.
VAR: Chris Kavanagh.
Assistant VAR: Eddie Smart.
Wolves are still without long-term absentees Chiquinho (knee) and Pedro Neto (ankle).
The unfortunate long-term unavailability of both strikers Sasa Kalajdzic and Raul Jimenez through to injury has forced new signing Diego Costa into three consecutive starts for Steve Davis’ side.
Young centre-back Toti Gomes missed the midweek defeat to Crystal Palace with a fitness concern which means key man Nathan Collins, who has completed his three-match suspension is expected to return to the fold on Sunday. French wing-back Rayan Ait-Nouri is a doubt through illness.
James Maddison (suspension) and Jonny Evans (knock) missed Leicester’s second win of the season in midweek but the good news for Brendan Rodgers is that they are both are in contention of featuring Although, Rodgers remained tight-lipped on Evan’s availability, stating: “We’ll see how he is for the weekend.”.
The visitors will have Wilfred Ndidi face at least another week serving the sidelines owing to a thigh problem while Caglar Soyuncu still nurses out a knee injury. Ryan Bertrand (knee) and Ricardo Pereira (Achilles) remain on the long-term absentee list and aren’t expected to be back in contention until 2023.
For much of the first half during the encounter with Crystal Palace, Wolves looked much like their old selves. Defensively rugged, organised and spirited when halting Palace’s attacking moves, as well as expressive and fluent when going up the other end.
Adama’s headed opener was the tonic they needed and a deserved goal for their efforts. Steve Davis’ side had less possession, but had more shots, more shots on target and formed the most big chances out of the two sides on Wednesday night at Selhurst Park. Sound familiar?
Certainly, that’s more or less how they matched up against opponents in their more promising days under former Nuno Espirito Santo. A tough team to score against, but one which wreaks havoc in transitions. The second-half saw the other side to Wolves, lacking a desire, ideas and the intensity which ultimately led to their collapse and Palace picking up all three points. If Wolves are to get out of this difficult spell, they’d have to be switched for the whole 90 minutes and that hasn’t been the case throughout this season. With such a talented crop of attackers at their disposal, they’ve still only found the back of the net just five times which is dreadful form.
These players are underperforming, incredibly lacking direction and cohesiveness which means they need a new manager quite soon or else their chances of avoiding a needless relegation battle after the World Cup look hopeless. They have a huge chance to atone for their midweek, having beaten another Midlands rival Nottingham Forest in their last home fixture.
Despite their 2-0 triumph over Leeds United, the Foxes certainly didn’t look as comfortable and as expansive as they would have liked. And that may be partly down to the absence of key man James Maddison and the dramatic fall in form of Jamie Vardy who was handed an unexpected start against the Whites. Had they been playing a better opponet, they most likely would not have walked away with the three points. Though, it’s now three clean sheets in four league games for the East Midlands outfit and the Foxes have new signing Wout Faes to thank as a result of his assured and phenomenal performances at the back in recent weeks.
Maddison’s return from suspension is incredibly timely as Brendan Rodgers looks to get his side back on track. Sitting in 19th, a point behind their opponents this weekend, on eight points certainly isn’t good enough. Leicester have lost all their away fixtures in the Premier League so far this season, an omen which will give Wolves some encouragement heading into this fixture on Sunday. Though, a first away win of the campaign on Sunday would be a welcome boost for the Foxes.
The owners will not stand anymore underachievement leading up to the World Cup break. You’d only need to look at what’s happened to Rodgers’ former student down the road at Villa Park.
When a team is down in the dumps and not accumulating the results and performances their talents warrant, they certainly need one or two players, preferably leaders to rise up and take charge, setting the example for the rest of squad to follow, and in the Wolverhampton Wanderers camp, that man is Ruben Neves.
Despite his side’s form, the Portuguese midfield maestro one of a few players who can hold their heads high because of their consistency in the midst of the struggle. The 25-year-old has been superb for the Midlands outfit so far this season, setting the tone, performing out of his skin and providing the inspiration they need both in defence and attack.
Yes, Wolves have only scored just five goals in 10 league games so far this campaign, but Neves is the man Wolves look to both instigate and sustain the attacks they do conjure up. But more crucially, he’s been excellent in his defensive efforts, and that is reflected in his 1.7 interceptions per game, 3.4 tackles, and 2.4 clearances, whilst also winning almost 60% of his ground duels.
Whatever chance Wolves get out of this dark form they’re in, much of their hopes will certainly be pinned on the shoulders of Ruben Neves.
James Maddison may be the man Leicester City look to for invention and creativity in the final third, and upon his return to action this weekend against Wolves, Harvey Barnes will once again be a key figure for Brendan Rodgers and the Foxes.
The 24-year-old’s lightning quick speed, snappy bursts of pace and acceleration arguably makes him just as pivotal as Maddison in Rodgers’ camp. Barnes has notched three Premier League goals so far this campaign, the latest a fine finish beneath Illan Meslier in the Leeds United goal on Thursday night.
For a player of his qualities, Barnes should be getting more goals and assists, and that’s probably why he’s not mentioned amongst the list of attackers for Gareth Southgate’s England squad – his lack of consistency. However, the same can be said of Jack Grealish who is constantly picked by Southgate despite his struggles in a Manchester City shirt.
Though Rodgers won’t mind the Burnley-born winger staying fresh and rejuvenated for the Foxes, regardless of his form and inconsistency, he still remains a key figure for the former Liverpool and Celtic boss. Leicester City will be aiming to climb the Premier League table, between now and the World Cup break, for that to happen, they desperately need the likes of Barnes, Maddison and Youri Tielemans to remain in tip top shape, and away from needless injuries.
Wolves XI to face Leicester City: Sa (GK); Jonny, Collins, Kilman, Ait-Nouri; Neves, Moutinho; Adama, Nunes, Guedes; Costa.
Leicester City XI to face Wolves: Ward (GK); Castagne, Amartey, Faes, Justin; Tielemans, Soumare; Maddison, Dewsbury-Hall, Barnes; Daka.