Wolves looking to get back on track
After their first serious dip in form of the season Wolves will be looking to get their promotion push back into gear when they entertain Reading at Molineux on Saturday at 17:30.
After draws away at Preston and at home to Norwich, Wolves were beaten at Fulham last Saturday and it would be difficult to argue that they deserved any more than 2 draws from those 3 games. The equaliser from Norwich came very late in the game, but had been coming for most of the second half as Wolves had lost their grip on the game. Now they face a Reading team that are in much worse form. A win at Burton at the end of January was the Royals only success in their last 14 games and they are sinking ever closer to the relegation spots. So this is a game where Wolves will be expected to take another step closer to the title.
A big negative going into the game is the continued absence of Ruben Neves as he completes a two game suspension. He was missed at Fulham last week. Arguably the best player in the Championship he is the player that links defence and attack for the club and who spreads the ball wide to get delivery to the wing backs while they are in space going forward. Without him it will probably be Saiss alongside N'Diaye. Saiss is primarily a defensive midfield player that sits ahead of the defence. While N'Diaye does cover more ground and has scored twice in recent games, but his game is built around power more than creativity. The alternative to Saiss is to bring in youngster Gibbs White who has given a series of impressive sub appearances but who struggled to impose himself on the game at Fulham, although to be fair the game was already drifting away before he was introduced. He would potentially help in linking the defence with attack and give support behind the front three.
There is a further possibility in midfield as Conor Coady impressed when pushed into that position late on at Fulham. He has been a revelation at the centre of defence but needs must and he might be able to come closest to filling the Neves void. Defensively Coady was exposed at Fulham more than in any game this season and both goals conceded had his involvement. Although Bennett and Doherty were bigger culprits for the key opening goal. The defensive frailties that have arisen in recent games have lead to speculation that the back three may be changed, having been pretty constant since the end of October. Batth, Hause and Miranda have all been waiting for another chance and if Nuno is going to move on from the back three that has done well for most of the winter, this may well be the time. The other question mark surrounds keeper John Ruddy whose handling has looked far from assured in recent games, Will Norris stands by and he has not conceded a goal for Wolves yet and was recently voted in to the Carabao Cup team of the season, and many have been interested to see him get a chance in the league.
The Wolves first eleven has virtually picked itself throughout the winter but now there are different possibilities all over the pitch and the front three positions are also up for grabs. Jota was a surprise omission from the starting eleven at Fulham but will surely be recalled tomorrow. While the form and consistency of Cavaleiro has been regularly improving making him close to an automatic choice. Costa may well be the third man tomorrow but he is still a notch below his best and Nuno may make a different choice. Bonatini started for the first time for a while at Fulham but didn't make a great impact. But Wolves fans will be aware that he was a vital part in the sparkling football the team played in the first third of the season. And it may have been a mistake by Nuno to have recalled him and then leave out Jota, as these two link so well together. The final alternative is Afobe who has not hit the ground running as the club would have hoped as they bought him back to the club on loan. Chances have come his way and been missed and his style of game may well not ideally suit the current Wolves style. As his positioning is all about getting into scoring positions then Wolves lose some of their flexibility when he is there, but then there is a view that given more chances he may well be able to convert if the others create for him.
First problem Wolves have to overcome at the weekend is the weather. The West Midlands has so far avoided the heavy snow that other parts of the country has seen. But more is forecast on Friday night through to Saturday. The stadium and pitch will be fine, but travel and the surrounds may not be. If the game goes ahead then Wolves fans will be hoping to see another 3 points added to the tally and thoughts of the sub zero temperatures will soon go away.