The Breakdown | Nottm Forest vs Wolves

Wolves will be looking to get back to winning ways when they make the short journey to the East Midlands on Saturday afternoon for a clash with Nottingham Forest.

#1 Inside both camps

With injuries having had a big impact on Wolves during the 2023/34 season, but more particularly in the last few months, Gary O’Neil will be pleased to see some of his key players expected to return to the pitch this weekend. Matheus Cunha has been working his way back from a hamstring injury with appearances off the bench in recent matches and could be set to start for the first time since February at the City Ground. Wolves could also see Craig Dawson return from a groin injury after being named on the bench last weekend before getting a full week of training under his belt, while Hee Chan Hwang has also been back in full training and offers another option to the attack. However, the game comes too soon for Jean-Ricner Bellegarde who has been back on the grass in individual training following his knee injury and it is yet to be seen if Rayan Ait-Nouri will be fit to start after coming off in the loss to West Ham United last weekend.

Former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo will face his old club with an almost fully fit squad to choose from on Saturday, although ex-Old Gold defender Willy Boly is out with an unknown muscular injury which he suffered in February, while Forest will also be without Taiwo Awoniyi and Nuno Tavares. There is also an injury doubt over star man and Wolves Academy graduate Morgan Gibbs-White, who will be hoping to hurt his boyhood club if he recovers from an injury which saw him be taken off early in last weekend’s loss to Tottenham Hotspur. Gibbs-White is expected to undergo a late fitness test.

#2 Coming into it

In recent weeks, Wolves are suffering their most difficult run of form since the early stages of the season having not found a win in their last four in all competitions. After the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Coventry City, O’Neil’s side have claimed just one point in the Premier League away at Turf Moor, before having a point snatched from them by VAR in the dying moments of Saturday’s clash with the Hammers.

Wolves’ last three | L 1-2 West Ham United (H) – D 1-1 Burnley (A) – L 0-2 Aston Villa (A)

Despite their appeal against a point deduction which saw Forest drop into the relegation zone, Forest have been fighting hard to pick up points in recent matches as they moved out of the bottom three through goal difference. Draws with Luton Town and Crystal Palace were followed up with an important victory over Fulham which provided some breathing space, although Nuno’s side was unable to pick up another win against another of his former club’s Tottenham Hotspur last time out.

Forest’s last three | L 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur (A) – W 3-1 Fulham (H) – D 1-1 Crystal Palace (H)

#3 Since last time

Wolves 1 Forest 1 | 9th December 2023

Matheus Cunha’s neat finish saw Wolves come from behind to earn a point in a fairly forgettable 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest at Molineux. The visitors led on 14 minutes after Harry Toffolo punished poor Wolves defending by heading in at the back post, but the hosts responded before the break when Pablo Sarabia laid off for Cunha to roll home the equaliser.

Wolves’ XI | Sa, Semedo, Kilman, Dawson, Toti, H. Bueno, M. Lemina, Gomes, Sarabia, Hwang, Cunha.

From the Wolves side which started against Forest last time out, match-winner Cunha could be due to make his first start after being drip fed back into action during recent games, while Hwang and Dawson could return. Saturday’s hosts will be without former Wolves man Boly, while goalkeeper Matt Turner has had his place taken by January signing Matz Sels and Orel Mangala is no longer at the club having joined Lyon on loan.

Forest’s XI | Turner, Mangala, Williams, Kouyate, Gibbs-White, Toffolo, Niakhate, Elanga, Boly, Murillo.

#4 In the media

Although last weekend’s match with West Ham was beginning to turn before Rayan Ait-Nouri was taken off with an injury, BBC WM’s Mike Taylor feels Wolves will be left looking to the medical room to get them back on track with so many key players having missed game time in recent weeks.

“Not for the first time lately, Ait-Nouri had been the key figure in the game, although being the right-sided of three forwards was a new assignment. Recently, O’Neil had talked warily of using Ait-Nouri further forward from the start of games, noting his ability there but suggesting the benefit might be outweighed by the loss of his services further back. Against West Ham, Ait-Nouri revelled in the new role, and in his slipstream the whole team seemed fresher than in recent weeks - the cadence of their passing slightly quickened. Alas, as everyone knows, injuries have left Wolves working without a safety net, and O’Neil with a familiar dilemma. Once again, Wolves are left looking longingly towards the medical room, awaiting relief.”

Sarah Clapson of the Nottingham Post believes there was a telling moment against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend which sums up a key Forest issue in their battle against relegation.

“Last Tuesday’s impressive 3-1 win over Fulham was a shot in the arm for their survival hopes. They competed well in the first half away to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday but fell to a 3-1 defeat. They will now look to bounce back at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday. However, on this week’s Garibaldi Red podcast the topic of leaders cropped up. It came after the armband swapped between several players once skipper Ryan Yates was substituted in the 81st minute against Spurs. When Ryan Yates got substituted, he didn't know who to give the armband to because (Morgan) Gibbs-White had already gone off. He looked at everybody, he took the armband off and he threw it up in the air. That leadership is so important, not just on the pitch, but off it as well, in the dressing room. It's having a group of players that know how to see out those moments, who can get everybody going, can keep calm, cool heads when you need it and can give that little bit of something extra.”