Preview: Wolves v Brighton – Back on track after Vitamin D?
Wolves take on struggling Brighton at Molineux.
Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers previews the clash.
When you’ve endured two disappointing and energy-sapping defeats, a visit from a team who’s lost five games on the spin without scoring sounds ideal.
Brighton are a team in freefall. But Wolves know better than that.
For a start they’ve already lost to the Seagulls this season, a frustrating 1-0 reverse at the Amex when Nuno Espirito Santo’s team amassed 25 shots and had 60 per cent of the ball but couldn’t find a way through a stubborn home rearguard.
Centre-halves Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk cleared the ball 18 times between them and when Wolves did pierce the Brighton back-line they found Australian keeper Matt Ryan in inspired form.
Wolves supporters also know all-too well that Brighton are one of their peskier bogey sides. The teams have faced each other 29 times in the league since meeting for the first time in 1979. Wolves have won just four matches.
But, more pertinently, Nuno’s team have endured frequent struggles against teams positioned at the lower end of the Premier League.
Their two most recent league defeats have been to the team then occupying 17th place, namely Burnley and Southampton.
Brighton now sit in that precarious position and, after a dreadful 2-0 defeat to Cardiff on Tuesday night, hot on the heels of an alarming 5-0 loss at home to Bournemouth last weekend, could slip into the relegation zone this weekend.
While that’s unlikely, owing to Cardiff City facing Liverpool, Chris Hughton’s team desperately need a result at Molineux, with daunting fixtures against Spurs (away), Arsenal (away) and Manchester City (at home on the final day) to follow in their final five fixtures (as well as a must-win home game against Newcastle).
Wolves won’t worry about Brighton’s fate, but the current predicament of the Seagulls should factor into their gameplan.
Both Burnley and Southampton approached their task against Nuno’s team with high levels of motivation and intensity, taking the game to Wolves and taking the lead inside 90 seconds.
At Molineux though, Wolves are a different prospect. They’ve not lost at home since January 2 and, if they attack the contest with the vigour they did against Cardiff last month, they should thrive, especially if the red-hot front pairing of Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota continue their recent fine form.
You wonder if Nuno will be tempted to shuffle his pack after a week in the Marbella sunshine.
Ruben Vinagre and Adama Traore shone at wing-back against the Bluebirds that day, while Leander Dendoncker and Romain Saiss were physical and resilient in midfield.
Ruben Neves’ partner gave birth earlier this week and, after two iffy performances, he may be one to make way.
Following a collective defensive display at St Mary’s that was arguably the worst Wolves have produced during Nuno’s tenure, getting it right at the back will be the head coach’s first priority and Ryan Bennett could also benefit if the boss makes changes.
Wolves will have a fully-fit squad to choose from unless anything has cropped up this week.
Brighton's only absentee is the suspended Anthony Knockaert, who was sent off for a reckless foul during the 5-0 defeat to Bournemouth.
Playmaker Pascal Gross returned from a seven-week absence in midweek, while Solly March is also fit again after a recent lay-off.
Likely line ups
Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Moutinho, Saiss, Dendoncker, Vinagre; Jimenez, Jota. Subs: Ruddy, Jonny, Neves, Gibbs-White, Traore, Cavaleiro, Costa.
Brighton (4-4-1-1): Ryan; Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Bernardo; Jahanbakhsh, Stephens, Propper, March; Gross; Murray.
Wolves – Joao Moutinho
Unlocking a stubborn Brighton defence was a problem for Wolves last October. The craft and ingenuity of Joao Moutinho will be required.
Brighton – Glenn Murray
Enduring a goal drought of six games but overall it’s been another impressive season for the 35-year-old stalwart. Brighton’s talisman, Murray has netted 13 times in 37 appearances – a good return for a struggling side – including the winner against Wolves back in October.
Nuno Espirito Santo: "We have to go, work hard, regroup and face these last challenges with optimism and the joy of trying to become a better team. Let’s react and go again."
Chris Hughton: "We need to show the same qualities that got us into the Premier League in the first place and the same qualities that have kept us here and the same qualities that have kept us here, two points above the relegation zone with five games to play,” he said. “That’s our togetherness and our battling qualities.
- Wolves have a dreadful record against Brighton. In 29 league meetings they've won just four – and the Seagulls have won all seven top-flight meetings between the teams, conceding just one goal in those matches.
- However their recent record at Molineux in excellent, winning seven of their past eight games in all competitions including two victories against Manchester United.
- If Wolves win they'll record three successive top-flight league victories at Molineux for the first time since 1980.
- Raul Jimenez is currently on 12 league goals for the season. One more will take him past Steven Fletcher's tally of 12 in 2011/12, which is the most goals scored in a Premier League season by a Wolves player.
- Brighton have lost their past five matches in all competitions without scoring a goal.
Apr 13: Southampton 3 (Redmond 2, 30, Long 71) Wolves 1 (Boly 28)
Apr 7: Watford 3 (Deulofeu 79, 104, Deeney pen 90+4) Wolves 2 (Doherty 36, Jimenez, 62) (aet) *FA Cup
Apr 2: Wolves 2 (Jota 25, Smalling OG 77) Manchester United 1 (McTominay 13)
Mar 30: Burnley 2 (Coady OG 2, McNeil 77) Wolves 0
Mar 16: Wolves 2 (Jimenez 70, Jota 77) Manchester United 1 (Rashford 90+5) *FA Cup
Apr 16: Brighton 0 Cardiff City 2 (Mendez-Laing 22, Morrison 50)
Apr 13: Brighton 0 Bournemouth 5 (Gosling 33, Fraser 55, Brooks 74, Wilson 82, Stanislas 90+2)
Apr 6: Manchester City 1 (Jesus 4) Brighton 0 *FA Cup
Apr 3: Chelsea 3 (Giroud 38, Hazard 60, Loftus-Cheek 63) Brighton 0
Mar 30: Brighton 0 Southampton 1 (Hojbjerg 53)
Past five meetings
Oct 27, 2018 (PL): Brighton 1 (Murray 48) Wolves 0
Apr 14, 2017 (Ch): Wolves 0 Brighton 2 (Knockaert 45, 82)
Oct 18, 2016 (Ch): Brighton 1 (Baldock 14) Wolves 0
Jan 1, 2016 (Ch): Brighton 0 Wolves 1 (Goldson OG 32)
Sep 19, 2015 (Ch) Wolves 0 Brighton 0
Wolves' last home win over Brighton came back in April 2006 when a Kenny Miller penalty gave them all three points in one of Glenn Hoddle's last games in charge.
Goalkeeper Stefan Postma came off injured at half-time in what it's safe to say was an unusual-looking Wolves line-up.
(4-3-3): Postma (Oakes 45); Lowe (McNamara 45), Edwards, Lescott, Ross; Cameron, Davies, Kennedy; Miller, Frankowski (Cort 75), Aliadiere. Subs not used: Rosa, Ki-Hyeon.
Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)
Pawson has taken charge of two Wolves games this season and there's been a red card in both – Everton's Phil Jagielka on the opening day of the season at Molineux and then Willy Boly at Manchester City when Wolves lost 3-0 in January.
In total he's handed out 129 yellows and five reds in 33 matches, with another sending off for Watford's Troy Deeney against Arsenal this week.
Wolves 4/6, draw 12/5, Brighton 4/1