Preview: Wolves v Leicester – Mini-league places at stake

It's 11th versus eighth as Wolves take on Leicester City for the third time this season.

Jonny Evans and Adama Traore could both feature tomorrow (© AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY)
Jonny Evans and Adama Traore could both feature tomorrow (© AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY)

Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers previews the clash.

Preamble

'Forget it and move on' was the general analysis from players and fans after Wolves’ 3-0 defeat at Manchester City.

Move on, specifically, to games against Leicester, West Ham in Everton in the next three league fixtures – the teams that currently occupy eighth, ninth and 10th in the Premier League table.

We all know Wolves have targeted finishing in the top half this season – but as Raul Jimenez admitted last week, they've got their eye on a European spot too, with seventh place guaranteeing just that in the past four years.

There isn't a big quality difference, if at all, between Watford in seventh and, say, Brighton and Crystal Palace in 13th/14th.

So the team that does finish seventh will be the one that shows the most consistency. Wolves have proved incapable of that in recent weeks with the random results of beating Spurs away and then drawing with Fulham and losing at home to Palace.

The key to improving that – and their record against teams who are willing to sit in and nullify Wolves – may be the form of their forwards. That's been Wolves' biggest weakness so far this season, but the recent signs from Diogo Jota and Adama Traore have been encouraging.

If Wolves can click going forward, finishing seventh is within their capability.

The next three games may tell us whether they're ready to do so – or highlight their shortcomings.

Either way Wolves know their home form needs to improve if they’re to leapfrog their rivals.

Five defeats in seven in the league have put an end to ‘fortress Molineux’, which had previously only witnessed three league losses in 12 months.

Wolves would also like a bit of revenge having lost twice to Leicester this season. A bizarre league game last August finished 2-0 to the Foxes via an own goal and a deflection, with Wolves hitting the woodwork three times, while Leicester triumphed on penalties in the Carabao Cup a month later.

The opposition

Leicester manager Claude Puel is happy for punters to keep wasting their money by betting on his future.

The Frenchman has been under fire at the King Power Stadium, despite the Foxes sitting eighth in the Premier League.

They were booed off after a 2-1 defeat to Southampton on Saturday, but are still sixth in the form table, having recently beaten Chelsea and Everton on the road. The Foxes also possess the sixth best away record in the league.

Fans are unhappy with Puel's possession-based style of play and he is the 2/5 favourite to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job.

Of course, he wants any bets to lose.

"The common thread, in all the press conferences, I cannot manage this speculation," he said.

"It's often people have a lot of bets about my future, I am sorry for people who made this bet because they lost a lot of money. I hope this situation continues.

"I've not got a problem with the fans' feelings, we have the same feeling. We were angry about our last performance and we lost the credit of our last (home) result (a 2-1 win over Manchester City).

"I have no problem about the feeling, we feel the same.

"We were angry about our performance (against Southampton), it was not enough. It was a shame because we had a fantastic result before and we lost the credit of the good result.

"It's a shame. We showed our inconsistency with a team where we could have had a better result. We have to improve our focus, our aggressiveness.

"We have to find solutions and to have a good result against this team. At home our result is not enough."

Team news

Willy Boly is suspended for three games after his red card at City.

Leander Dendoncker, who impressed when slotting in defence to cover Boly on Monday, is the favourite to replace him. Romain Saiss is another option.

Nuno played a three-man midfield against City and Liverpool but may revert to his usual 3-4-3 with Adama Traore, Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa his options to come in.

Leicester have received an injury boost with the early return of ex-Albion defender Jonny Evans. Daniel Amartey is their only absentee tomorrow.

Puel recalled Harvey Barnes from a prolific loan spell at Albion last week. He was only on the bench for the 2-1 loss at Southampton but came on at half time and could make his first ever league start for the Foxes.

Likely line ups

Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Dendoncker; Doherty, Moutinho, Neves, Jonny; Traore, Jimenez, Jota. Subs: Ruddy, Kilman, Saiss, Vinagre, Gibbs-White, Costa, Cavaleiro.

Leicester City (4-3-3): Schmeichel; Pereira, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Choudhury, Mendy, Ndidi; Barnes, Vardy, Maddison.

Key players

Wolves – Diogo Jota

Jota looks to have picked up where he left off before his hamstring injury. His ingenuity and creativity will be crucial against the Foxes.

Leicester – Jamie Vardy

Dressed up as Spiderman for a training ground prank yesterday and it's safe to say the striker's rise from non-league to Premier League has been superhuman. Sent off in the reverse fixture, has netted seven times this season.

The bosses

Nuno Espirito Santo: "I admire Leicester a lot and respect them a lot. I think it's part of history what Leicester achieved (when winning the Premier League) and also the sad moment in sport that Leicester suffered with their former owner. I have total admiration for them."

Claude Puel: "We have more ability away because teams need to play a little more. Often teams come at home to defend, to play deep and we often concede early. If this happens to teams who play deep, it’s hard to get chances. We have to improve the management of the early stages of games."

Form

Wolves LWLWD

Jan 14: Manchester City 3 (Jesus 10, pen 39, Coady OG 78) Wolves 0

Jan 7: Wolves 2 (Jimenez 38, Neves 55) Liverpool 1 (Origi 51) *FA Cup

Jan 2: Wolves 0 Crystal Palace 2 (Ayew 83, Milivojevic 90+5)

Dec 29: Tottenham 1 (Kane 22) Wolves 3 (Boly 72, Jimenez 83, Costa 87)

Dec 26: Fulham 1 (Sessegnon 74) Wolves 1 (Saiss 85)

Leicester City LLWLW

Jan 12: Leicester 1 (Ndidi 58) Southampton 2 (Ward-Prowse pen 11, Long 45+2)

Jan 6: Newport County 2 (Matt 10, Amond pen 85) Leicester 1 (Ghezzal 82) *FA Cup

Jan 1: Everton 0 Leicester 1 (Vardy 58)

Dec 29: Leicester 0 Cardiff 1 (Camarasa 90+2)

Dec 26: Leicester 2 (Albrighton 19, Pereira 81) Manchester City 1 (Bernardo Silva 14)

Past five meetings

Sep 25, 2018 (EFL Cup) Wolves 0 Leicester 0 (1-3 on pens)

Aug 18, 2018 (PL): Leicester City 2 (Doherty OG 29, Maddison 45) Wolves 0

Jan 31, 2013 (Ch): Leicester City 2 (Knockaert 24, Nugent 73) Wolves 1 (Sako 51)

Sep 16, 2012 (Ch): Wolves 2 (Ebanks-Blake 13, Stearman 21) Leicester City 0 (Konchesky 70)

Dec 22, 2007 (Ch): Wolves 1 (Jarvis 73) Leicester City 1 (Hume 4)

Referee

Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire)

Just the one red card shown by Kavanagh this season – and that was for Leicester's James Maddison during a 1-1 draw at Brighton.

He's flashed a below-average 53 yellows in 19 games overall.

Match odds

Wolves 13/10, draw 11/5, Leicester 23/10

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