Chelsea v Wolves: Free hit as Wolves bid to banish Bruno blues
The pressure is off for Wolves ahead of tomorrow’s visit to Chelsea –and they need to play as if the shackles are off.
It is never a great look when players suddenly turn it on once a manager has departed, but Wolves and their supporters will hardly care if the team can pull off a result at Stamford Bridge.
Now that Bruno Lage has left, the pressure is off against Chelsea. Wolves are not expected to win and many are already looking towards next week’s game with Nottingham Forest as a crunch clash.
With so many fans and pundits looking beyond this fixture, what do Wolves have to lose?
Interim bosses Steve Davis and James Collins have a number of important decisions to make.
Nathan Collins is still suspended, as is Ruben Neves, meaning Toti Gomes must finally be given his chance in defence.
Wolves could play a four with him and Max Kilman, or revert to a back three with Jonny Castro Otto alongside them in the search of a result.
But inviting that pressure on may be the exact thing Wolves do not want to do – instead, free up the forwards to enjoy their football again and perhaps nick a result.
With Neves missing, Boubacar Traore could come in for his first start in a midfield three and add some much-needed energy.
But it is up front where the next biggest decision must be made. Former Chelsea hero Diego Costa will be desperate to play against the team he won two Premier League medals with.
The striker, who turned 34 years old today, did well off the bench against West Ham and offered Wolves a focal point, but he was only ready to play just over half-an-hour. As he slowly gets to grips with playing regular top-flight football, Costa may not yet be ready to start tomorrow and the interim managers may have to rely on his impact from the bench. Wolves currently only have one fit striker in Costa and the club may not be prepared to risk his fitness from the start against Chelsea before they appoint a new head coach.
As a result, Davis and Collins are hamstrung by the same issue that plagued Lage as Daniel Podence is likely to start as a false nine.
Although playing him out of position there does not work, Podence is currently not the issue. He is one of few forwards making any impact at the moment, but he would benefit from playing out wide with Costa through the middle.
With injuries issues to Pedro Neto and Raul Jimenez, Wolves are short of options. Hwang Hee-chan missed the last game but has been back on the grass since.
However, even if he is fit, he will not be able to start.
If he is not available, the bench looks far weaker as injuries and suspensions take hold.
The key to tomorrow’s game, from a Wolves perspective, is to play with freedom and without pressure, but try to avoid an embarrassing defeat before a new boss arrives in the coming days or weeks.