Fearing the Jota reunion & a new tactical challenge – The view from Wolves

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Wolves supporters believe an upset is possible away to Liverpool on Sunday night, ahead of a crucial Premier League clash.

The Reds booked their place in the Champions League knockout stages on Tuesday, edging their way to a professional 1-0 win at home to Ajax.

It is a return to league action this weekend, with Wolves bouncing into Anfield, fresh off the back of a 2-1 triumph at Arsenal.

Star striker Raul Jimenez may be out with a serious head injury, but Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are still one of the most dangerous outfits in the division.

Ahead of the game, we spoke to The Wolves 77 Club (@77ClubPodcast) podcast’s Sam Cook to get the lowdown on Liverpool’s opponents, Diogo Jota and the Reds’ title chances.

 

How would you assess Wolves’ start to the campaign?

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 12, 2020: Wolverhampton Wanderers form a pre-match huddle before the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Everton FC at Molineux Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I would like to start with a thanks to the footballing community around the world for the show of support for Raul Jimenez.

It was a horrific injury and we wish him the very best in his recovery.

Jimenez is our top goalscorer so far this season, and though at times we haven’t played brilliantly, his goals have helped us to seventh place – only four points off top.

In the last two games, Nuno Espirito Santo has switched to four at the back and it has completely changed the team’s dynamic.

The fans were calling for a change and he listened.

Against Southampton, he played a back four for the first time since his Porto days and the early signs are promising.

 

What would constitute a successful season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 29, 2019: Wolverhampton Wanderers' manager Nuno Espírito Santo embraces Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think most Wolves fans will say a successful season would be building on our consecutive seventh-place finishes since promotion.

We had a taste of European football last season and what better way to welcome potential ‘normality’ for 2021/22 than with another European tour. We can but hope!

Sixth place should secure it, and at this point I would certainly take that.

A good cup run would be nice as well, although the fixtures are congested enough as it is, so I am happy to leave that for this season if it means top six.

 

Who have been Wolves’ three best players so far this season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 29, 2019: Wolverhampton Wanderers' Pedro Neto (#7) enthusiastically celebrates a goal, only for it to be disallowed after a VAR review for offside, during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Pedro Neto has really come into his own – he will be one hell of a player for us this season. He is due one against Liverpool after the VAR fiasco at Anfield last year.

Former Liverpool man Conor Coady has been solid and looks much more comfortable in defence at the moment.

His credentials as a leader only seem to be getting stronger as well.

Finally, Daniel Podence. He is improving with every game and his finish against Arsenal was world-class.

He has two goals and assists apiece so far this season – hopefully he can add to that on Sunday.

 

Could you see ex-Liverpool man Coady playing at an even higher level moving forward?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Thursday, October 8, 2020: Englands Conor Coady celebrates after scoring the second goal during the International Friendly match between England and Wales at Wembley Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK Government’s social distancing laws prohibiting supporters from attending events inside stadiums as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Great question.

He will likely be starting for England at the Euros next year and it doesn’t really get higher than that, does it?

Aside from the World Cup the year after.

 

Switching our attention to Liverpool, do you still see them as title favourites?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 22, 2020: Liverpool’s Diogo Jota celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I see Liverpool as title contenders, but not necessarily favourites. That is purely down to the awful luck they have had with injuries.

Virgil van Dijk is a huge loss for any side, and Joe Gomez probably needed more minutes in his development, and it is a shame he won’t get that just yet.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is obviously a massive miss, too.

This season is turning out to be the most unpredictable yet. however, with the lack of fans clearly having an impact.

That, coupled with the abomination that is VAR – scrap drawing lines on pictures, please – means the eventual champions this season will be the ones who have been the least inconsistent.

 

Looking ahead to Sunday’s game, who do you fear most for the Reds?

BRIGHTON & HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 28, 2020: Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the AMEX Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

Wolves fans ultimately fear any former players we come up against.

Diogo Jota has clearly found his groove in the Liverpool side. He looked to have ruffled a few feathers in that famous ‘front three’ when he first arrived, but I think they’re warming to him now!

Otherwise, it will be the usual suspects – Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson for me.

The latter controlled large parts of the two fixtures last season and I expect him to do the same again at Anfield on Sunday.

 

Where do you see the key battles taking place?

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 12, 2020: Wolverhampton Wanderers' Adama Traoré during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Everton FC at Molineux Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Adama Traore vs. Andy Robertson is the one we will be hoping goes our way.

Even Robertson admitted Traore ‘ripped him apart’ at Molineux last season.

It will be interesting to see the two sides play this one out, as the formations won’t be massively dissimilar.

Fabio Silva could well get the nod after Jimenez’s injury. He is young, but we saw glimpses of what he could do last time out against Arsenal.

I have always said he would need minutes and he will get them now – it is just a horrible situation that has led to it.

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction…

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, January 7, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (R) shakes hands with Wolverhampton Wanderers' head coach Nuno Espírito Santo after the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. Wolverhampton Wanderers won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I’m going for 2-1 to Wolves, with VAR ruining something in the 90 minutes.

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