In a period where we only ever seem to play Brighton or Wolves, we are once again tasked with bouncing back from a disappointing result. Despite knocking Wolves out of the FA Cup a few weeks back, the Reds were unable to progress past the Seagulls in the very next round. This weekend’s game represents a time when all domestic cup ventures are now behind both parties, with only a single-minded desire to climb the Premier League table remaining.
After Wolves lost at the Molineux Stadium to the Reds in that FA Cup replay, they were then soundly beaten on their travels to the Etihad. That 3-0 loss saw them drop to 17th in the top division, therefore creating some anxiety within the West Midland camp. With a points tally to match their league standing, it’s certainly been a difficult first twenty games of their campaign. With every defeat comes more pressure, though relegation is still an unlikely scenario for such a strong squad of players. As Julen Lopetegui continues to mould his system and patterns of play, this weekend will be all about getting his team’s season back on track.
On the availability front, the home side will be without Francisco Tavares Oliveira, Pedro Lomba Neto, Sasa Kalajdzic and Boubacar Traore. In goal we will see José Sá starting, who will be hoping to make amends for the brilliant goal conceded to Harvey Elliott in January. At left back we should see Rayan Aït-Nouri recalled to the first team, with Nélson Semedo maintained at right back. The centre back pairing of Max Kilman and Nathan Collins will probably retain their places, though Toti Gomes could come in for one of them, after the beating by Manchester City
The centre midfield pair of Matheus Nunes and Rúben Neves will probably start this game, with Mario Lemina likely to be withdrawn from last week’s three man group. Just ahead of them, the veteran João Moutinho may come back in to complete a more familiar central area. Up front the manager will have a straight choice between Matheus Cunha and Raúl Jiménez, with Diego Costa likely to remain an impact option from the bench. Adama Traoré and Hwang Hee-chan may well be dropped for this game, with both struggling to make any impact recently. David Podence and Pablo Sarabia are genuine starting options for Lopetegui, with some changes almost certainly incoming.
Liverpool come into this game after another disappointing result against Brighton, which saw them surrender their lead on their way to a 2-1 away loss. Their last league outing was the bore draw at home to huge spending Chelsea, therefore they do not come into this game with any real form. On the injury front, Jürgen Klopp is still without Virgil van Dijk for a number of weeks. Alongside him on the treatment table remains Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Arthur Melo, Bobby Firmino, with Ibrahima Konaté and Nat Phillips now joining them.
Alisson Becker will start in goal, with Joe Gomez and Joel Matip ahead of him. Trent Alexander Arnold should start once again, though James Milner could be a surprise selection. Andy Robertson will be the starting left back, with a good chance that he holds onto the captains armband. The midfield should see Naby Keita make yet another start, alongside Stefan Bajčetić and Thiago. The horrendous form of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho (this season) means they are unlikely to be recalled. If there are any more defensive injuries, there is a good chance that the Brazilian becomes a replacement in the rear-guard. Darwin will surely make a start for this game, with a left sided attacking role likely. Cody Gakpo had a good game as the false nine last weekend; therefore he should see himself immersed between the Uruguayan and Mohamed Salah. Despite Harvey Elliott enjoying some good scoring form of late, he will probably be taken out of the firing line.
This is a game that neither team can afford to lose, with the halfway point of the season now complete. As Wolves try to integrate some new pieces, it should see Liverpool able to take advantage. With the visitors looking more compact and controlled in their play, they will be hoping that their new look attack can finally click. The Reds’ defence does look threadbare right now, so this game could be one that produces some goals.
Player to watch – Darwin Nunez
Wolves 2 – 3 Liverpool