It’s rare I’ve said this recently, but I’ve got a good feeling about this one – even if it is 7th vs 17th.
Wolves may be flying, having won 4 of their last 5 in all comps and scoring 15 in the process, but it feels like we have some genuine momentum and belief for one of the first times this season.
We saw off Cardiff convincingly, were outstanding in our 2-1 win over Man City and defending superbly in our unfortunate 1-0 defeat at Spurs. Not only that, we’ve gone and finally broken our 14-year-old club record signing, with the arrival of both Almiron and Barreca giving everyone a much needed boost.
Not only that, we now have several key players finally returning from injury. Diame and Ki are back to beef up our paper thin midfield options (with Longstaff and Hayden playing practically every minute over the last month) and Dummett is also available – with he, Barreca and Almiron giving Rafa a sudden selection headache in both left-back and attacking midfield areas.
Wolves have really impressed me this season, having a system hard to contain, a defence that’s hard to crack and an attack with options left, right and centre, but impressive runs of form often come to an end sooner rather than later – especially when it’s involving sides outside the top 6.
Rafa suddenly has options for this one, but I don’t see him making any changes if I’m honest.
Diame is an obvious Hayden replacement but the latter has done well of late. Dummett is usually one of the first names on the team sheet, but I struggle to see how he fits into the above formation as a wing-back.
Atsu was the clear weak link at Spurs for me, with his final ball often letting us down on the counter, but I can’t see Almiron starting just yet. It wouldn’t be Rafa’s style – especially in a game where he’d have a huge job to do at both ends, with Wolves’ wing-backs Doherty and Jonny practically playing as attacking wingers whenever I’ve watched them at Molineux this season.
I’d like to see the below team start, but I think there’ll be no changes made:
Prefered NUFC XI – (3-4–2-1) – Dubravka– Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune – Yedlin, Longstaff, Diame, Ritchie – Perez, Almiron – Rondon.
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in the Wolves side:
Raul Jimenez – He’s been hugely impressive in his first season in England. With 11 goals and 6 assists in all comps he’s been heavily involved in so many of Wolves’ goals this season, but his general play, surprise burst of pace and work rate is equally impressive.
Doherty and Jonny – The pair are Wolves’ wing-backs, but if I told you they played as attacking wingers you’d believe me. Considering they are classified as ‘defenders’ you would not believe how many times they find themselves arriving in the box.
Willy Boly – He’s another who’s impressed me this season, but as good as he’s been, he’s had a few moments of madness – with him seeing red at City a few weeks ago and being very lucky to get away with his reckless elbow on Perez late last year. Nevertheless, it will be a big challenge for Rondon, with Boldy being a mountain of a man and a solid defender.
Predicted Wolves XI – (3-5-2) – Patricio – Bennett, Coady, Boly – Doherty, Moutinho, Dendoncker, Neves, Jonny – Jimenez, Jota.
Diame, Ki and Dummett have all been passed fit for this one, with Almiron and Barreca also available after training over the last few days.
Benitez confirmed that Shelvey is ‘close’ but this one will come too soon for him, while Muto is back after returning from the Asian Cup.
For Wolves, star centre-back Willy Boly is back from a ban.
Looking at league position and Wolves’ form some would say there’s only one winner here, but I have a good feeling about this one.
IF he can defend as well as we have done in our last two games then we could frustrate them and come away with a result, but the difference between a potential draw and surprise victory will all come down to our final ball on the break. Perez and Rondon did well at Spurs but Atsu frustrated, meaning the introduction of Almiron could just be the missing ingredient if he can hit the ground running.
No result would surprise me in this one, however I do have a good feeling that we’ll come away with at least a point.
Prediction: Wolves 1-1 Newcastle
Howay the lads!