Wolverhampton Wanderers make the trip to the south coast this afternoon for their Premier League clash against Southampton, and Julen Lopetegui will be hoping that his team can take confidence from their recent victory over Liverpool into today’s bottom-of-the-table clash.
The Midlands club are now 15th in the table – two points clear of the relegation zone – and another win against Nathan Jones’ side today could be a huge opportunity to widen the gap to the bottom three.
In terms of injuries, Sasa Kalajdzic, Chiquinho, Hwang Hee-chan and Boubacar Traore are all unavailable for the trip to St Mary’s, although late fitness tests will be undertaken for two players, with Lopetegui hinting at a chance for Pedro Neto and Mario Lemina to be involved.
In his pre-match press conference on Friday, the Wolves boss confirmed that the Gabon midfielder has recovered from illness, but a decision won’t be made on him until the morning of the match.
Lopetegui said of Lemina (via the club’s official website): “I don’t know if he’s going to be 100 per cent but he’s better so we’ll have to take the decision tomorrow morning with him. We don’t know if he will play or not, because we have had a little problem with a couple of players.”
What could Wolves’ XI look like against Southampton?
Football FanCast predicts just three changes to the team which beat Liverpool last weekend, with a full overhaul of the forward line and a switch to a 4-3-3 formation…
Jose Sa (GK), Nelson Semedo (RB), Craig Dawson (CB), Max Kilman (CB), Rayan Ait-Nouri (LB), Ruben Neves (CM), Mario Lemina (CM), Matheus Nunes (CM), Daniel Podence (RW), Raul Jimenez (ST), Adama Traore (LW)
Following that fantastic performance at Molineux, there is no doubt that the manager will want to keep the skeleton of his team relatively the same to not only reward the players for their efforts but to ensure continuity in key areas of the pitch.
As a result, we expect to see no personnel changes in midfield or defence at St Mary’s this afternoon, although Hwang’s injury could provide an opportunity for Lopetegui to experiment with his forward line and give some of his more experienced players an opportunity to prove their worth.
The first change we expect to see is Wolves stalwart Adama Traore returning to the front three, with the pacy 27-year-old capable of causing chaos on the left flank. He should be able to keep the Saints defenders busy in order to open up more opportunities for the visitors, with Pablo Sarabia dropping out.
The two other changes we predict are Daniel Podence’s return to the starting XI to replace Hwang, and Raul Jimenez replacing Matheus Cunha at centre-forward.
Indeed, the Brazilian loanee – for whom Wolves have a £44m obligation to buy in the summer – has been a breath of fresh air in the team, posting a tidy 6.9 Sofascore rating against Liverpool as he landed two shots on target, although there is no ignoring Jimenez’s record against Southampton.
The Wolves titan – who was previously dubbed “sensational” by Conor Coady – has scored five goals in his last five appearances against today’s opponents, proving that he could be the talisman that his team needs in order to secure another victory.
Lopetegui is in a great position to distance Wolves from a relegation scrap at the bottom of the table by stealing all three points from St Mary’s today, with Southampton rock-bottom and reeling from a 3-0 hammering by Brentford and uncertainty over the status of Jones as their manager.