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Ghost of Jota present, but wounded Reds provide timely opening – The view from Wolves

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Wolves have mirrored Liverpool in having a season to forget – we get the view from Molineux ahead of the Reds’ trip on Monday.

Jurgen Klopp‘s men won 2-0 against RB Leipzig in midweek, effectively keeping their campaign alive by staying in the Champions League.

It’s a return to Premier League action on Monday evening, though, as Liverpool head to a Wolves side who are also under-performing domestically.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are 12th in the table currently – a disappointment, considering they came seventh last time around.

Ahead of the game, we caught up with Sam Cook from The Wolves 77 Club podcast (@77ClubPodcast) to get the lowdown on Wolves‘ season, Liverpool’s hopes of bouncing back and much more.

 

It’s been a disappointing season for Wolves – how would you assess it?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 6, 2020: Wolverhampton Wanderers' captain Conor Coady during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s the first time I haven’t really been bothered about the football, to be honest.

We were saying on the podcast this week that we can only think of a handful of games – two or three – where we’ve genuinely been entertained.

Couple that with a loss in the West Midlands and Black Country derby and things were looking really bad!

There was talk of relegation at one point, but a really healthy February staved off most of that fear.

A mid-table finish would be fine at this point – get fans back in the stadiums and go again in 2021/22.

 

Where has it gone wrong for Wolves compared to last time around?

The success of the last three full seasons have largely been down to the fitness team at the club. We could probably count on one hand how many players were out with long-term injuries through that three-year period.

That played a massive part in our success.

This term has been completely the opposite and has been one of the most challenging periods for them since Nuno came in. Some of it is down to the pandemic, some of it is bad luck.

An eight-day pre-season is a huge factor, coupled with 50 plus games last season, which was always going to cause problems.

Losing Raul Jimenez in October was the biggest blow, though. He’s still our second-highest goalscorer on four goals.

Ruben Neves and Pedro Neto have five, which says it all for me.

 

Is Nuno still the man to take the club forward?

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo (Dave Thompson/PA Wire)

Absolutely. He’s earned the right to have a rough patch and it looks like he’s got us through it.

But I’ll also be a little honest here, we have spoken on the podcast about him leaving, but there’s nobody available out there – or likely to leave their current club – which would leave us in a better position.

And Big Sam was already taken, right? (That’s a joke, by the way!)

 

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)

Neto, Rui Patricio and the recently-returned Jonny have been the standout players overall.

 

Any who have been poor?

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 hasn’t really hit the heights of last season – 0 goals and 0 assists is a poor return for him. He misses Raul as much as anyone else.

He just doesn’t have a ‘footballing brain’, whereas Raul does. That’s why they work so well together.

 

Switching our attention to Liverpool, why do you think they have struggled this season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 7, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker (L) and Nathaniel Phillips look dejected as Fulham score the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Injuries. They’ve been so unlucky to lose so many key players at one time, although maybe that points to a little bit of naivety in the close season transfer window.

When you win the Premier League you MUST strengthen with first team players. I don’t think Liverpool did that.

Diogo Jota was a great signing, but he’s not a marquee signing. I’d back that up by saying all of the key players who’ve been out this season were at Anfield last year.

 

Do you think they will be title contenders next year?

Of course. They should learn from the mistakes of the last two windows and go out and get some big names in.

Undroppable names need some proper competition for places – they need to do that or risk going stale.

If that happens, it’s back to square one I think.

 

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

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 7, 2021: Liverpool's Diogo Jota during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. Fulham won 1-0 extending Liverpool's run to six consecutive home defeats. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jota. He’s a former player and former players ALWAYS score against Wolves.

The other one would be Fabinho. He is a top-quality player and I’d be wary of him if he was playing in goal, he’s that good in any position.

 

Where do you see the key battles taking place?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 4, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It will be Wolves’ third of the pitch where the key battles lie.

I can see us letting you play and sitting back – if we do that, it’ll be another 4-0 win for Liverpool.

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction…

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp before the Premier League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture date: Sunday February 28, 2021.

I never back us to lose any game and we’re playing Liverpool at a very good time for us.

So, 2-1 to Wolves!

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