Preview: Wolves v Everton – Back in the big time
Wolves return to the big time when they host Everton at Molineux tomorrow.
Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers previews the opening-day clash.
It’s been 96 days since Wolves held a promotion party to remember across a jubilant city.
A lot’s happened since then. England got to the semi-finals of a World Cup, Geraint Thomas won the Tour de France...and Wolves spent tens of millions of pounds on a host of new signings.
Anticipation for the new campaign among the Wolves fanbase was already feverish. But adding the likes of Adama Traore, Joao Moutinho, Leander Dendoncker and Rui Patricio to last season’s title-winning squad has got Wolverhampton salivating at what may lay ahead during the next nine months.
History suggests runaway title winners from the Championship tend to fare pretty damn well in their following top-flight campaign.
Of the five teams to have earned 100 points (from Sunderland in 1999 to Leicester in 2014), all of them finished between eighth and 14th. Wolves of course fell one point short of hitting three figures, but that’s a pretty decent barometer.
Nuno et al of course won’t publicly state their target, but somewhere between those positions will likely be what they have their sights on, certainly when considering this summer’s huge outlay – and the quality and experience they’ve brought in.
While the recent Premier League history of those promoted teams bodes well, Wolves’ top-flight history has been dreadful for decades.
In the past 45 years, they have only finished in the top half on one occasion (sixth in 1979/80) and when it comes to English football’s elite level have remained on the outside, looking in.
Nuno, Fosun and the club’s hierarchy want that to change. They want to build their own history – as do a clutch of young stars all keen to make a name for themselves on the biggest stage of all in club league football.
Tomorrow we get the first opportunity to see just how well placed they are to make a big impact in the Premier League. Everton finished eighth last season and Wolves’ first two fixtures against the Toffees and Leicester (ninth last year) will be a decent yardstick on which to predict the short-term future of this team, a team that so thrilled us when storming to the Championship title.
The Premier League is a different beast all together – while the second tier is relentless in terms of its schedule, the top flight is unforgiving in terms of the quality opposition that will lay in wait every single week for 38 games.
There’s no hiding place and the likes of Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota and Willy Boly will have to make the step up that Wolves have always expected them to since signing them last summer.
The squad, after a tough but rewarding pre-season against mostly prestigious opposition, certainly feel they’re ready to take on England’s best.
Traore missed the start of Middlesbrough Championship campaign last weekend having suffered a dislocated shoulder a week earlier, however he has trained this week and could feature.
Dendoncker didn't feature in either of Anderlecht's first two games on the season his fitness levels are unknown (one for Nuno to address in today's pre-match press conference).
Other than that Wolves have a clean bill of health.
Everton's only absentee is long-term injury victim James McCarthy, who's recovering from a broken leg.
The Toffees went transfer crazy yesterday, signing Colombian centre half Yerry Mina from Barcelona for £27m, Brazil international attacking midfielder Bernard on a free transfer from Shakhtar Donetsk and central midfielder Andre Gomes on loan, also from Barcelona (they also signed left back Lucas Digne from the Spanish giants earlier this summer).
Throw in another Brazilian Richarlison for a deal that could rise to £50m and Everton have now had a productive summer that's also seen Davy Klaasen (£12m, Werder Bremen), Ramiro Funes Mori (£4.4m, Villarreal) Ashley Williams (loan, Stoke) Kevin Mirallas (loan, Fiorentina) and Wayne Rooney (free, DC United) move on.
Likely line ups
Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Costa, Jimenez, Jota. Subs: Ruddy, Batth, Saiss, Vinagre, Traore, Cavaleiro, Bonatini.
Everton (4-3-3): Pickford; Coleman, Mina, Keane, Baines; Sigurdsson, Gomes, Gueye; Walcott, Tosun, Richarlison.
Wolves – Ruben Neves
His big chance to show the country what all the fuss is about. Ball retention – as well as keeping tabs on the marauding Sigurdsson and Richarlison – will be key.
Everton – Richarlison
His stunning early-season form for Watford in 2017/18 may have dried up once Marco Silva was sacked by the Hornets, but he has been reunited with his old boss and been in great nick in pre-season. Fast, strong and very technical, he has the ability to be Everton’s match-winner.
Nuno Espirito Santo: "I have been waiting for it. Conscious, humble to recognise we are going to be among the best. But ready and highly motivated and ready to go."
Marco Silva: "I know what the responsibility is to be Everton manager and I know what the fans expect. I will demand a lot from our players."
Wolves (pre-season) WLDDD
Aug 4, 2-1 v Villarreal (h)
July 28, 1-2 v Derby (a)
July 25, 0-0 v Stoke (a)
July 22, 0-0 v Real Betis (n) (45-min match)
July 22, 0-0 v Bochum (a) (45-min match)
Everton (pre-season) LLLLD
Aug 4, 2-3 v Valencia (a)
July 28, 1-4 v Rennes (a)
July 26, 0-3 v Blackburn (a)
July 22, 0-1 v Porto (n)
July 21, 0-0 v Lille (n)
Past five meetings
May 2012 (PL) – Wolves 0 Everton 0
Nov 2011 (PL) – Everton 2 (Jagielka 44, Baines 83) Wolves 1 (Hunt 37)
April 2011 (PL) – Wolves 0 Everton 3 (Beckford 21, Neville 39, Bilyaletdinov 45)
Aug 2010 (PL) – Everton 1 (Cahill 43) Wolves 1 (Ebanks-Blake 74)
Mar 2010 (PL) – Wolves 0 Everton 0
Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)
Pawson sent off two players on the opening day of last season, showing marching orders to Chelsea's Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas in their 3-2 home defeat to Burnley.
The 39-year-old took charge of 34 matches last season, including European and international fixtures. He showed 112 yellow cards and four reds.
Wolves 13/10, Draw 11/5, Everton 23/10