The Premier League is back and is gathering real momentum, with Wolves back in action on Wednesday and making their Molineux return for the visit of AFC Bournemouth. Both sides have plenty to play for, at both ends of the table, and here are five things to take note of before the latest behind closed doors contest kicks off.
1. Dorset delight
Like against West Ham United at the weekend, Wolves also boast an impressive recent record over their next opponents, AFC Bournemouth. Since returning to the Premier League, Nuno’s men are unbeaten against the Cherries, having picked up seven from nine points available – a record they’ll be keen to extend on Wednesday night. Raul Jimenez in particular enjoys facing the Dorset club – he’s scored every time he’s faced Bournemouth, including the opener in a 2-0 Molineux triumph last season.
Earlier this term, Wolves put in one of the most complete first-half displays possible at the Vitality Stadium, where Jimenez was at it again, adding to Joao Moutinho’s peach of a free-kick. That was enough for the victory in Dorset. More of the same back in the West Midlands? Nuno will certainly hope so.
2. Will there be changes?
On Saturday, the game may have been won following Nuno’s return to a 3-4-3 system, but it was with a three-man midfield where the foundation for the victory was set. What it shows is Wolves are extremely flexible between the two systems, leaving opposition managers guessing. The Cherries have to plan for two systems, one with an extra body in the middle, the other with more bodies in wide spaces. Nuno has proved in the past he’s equally happy starting with either system, and will now be deciding how to approach Wednesday.
Will Traore start following his impact on Saturday? Likewise, Neto? Will Dendoncker retain his shirt following a solid 60-minute display? Then, there’s the likes of Ruben Vinagre, Maximilian Kilman and Daniel Podence who could be introduced as fresh legs. It’s a tough one to call, but it certainly displays the strength Wolves have in key areas, which will be crucial during a hectic run of fixtures.
3. Rock solid defence
Yet another welcome sight on Saturday was the zero next to Wolves’ name of the scoreboard come full-time, following a solid defensive display, where West Ham rarely threatened. Clean sheets have been a theme of Wolves’ game, particularly since the return of Willy Boly, who has seen Rui Patricio’s goal breeched just twice in the six games since his comeback. Both goals came in a frantic first-half at Tottenham Hotspur, meaning Patricio and his defence have kept five clean sheets in their past six matches.
It puts the Portuguese stopper, on nine clean sheets for the season, two behind the division’s front runners of Dean Henderson, Nick Pope, Ederson and Alisson on 11 – can he move closer with another shutout against the Cherries on Wednesday evening?
4. What’s different at Molineux?
Unfortunately, supporters will be sorely missing at Molineux, but the stands will be filled with artwork courtesy of local artists and Wolves supporters Ben Mortimer and Lobos. The pair have linked up with their club to help fill the stands. Mortimer’s work will help fuse the Wolves fan mosaic in the bottom of the South Bank, while Lobos has produced the artwork for the remaining three stands.
A matchday programme has been produced for the event and will cover all four Molineux fixtures left this season, starting with Wednesday’s clash. The collector’s edition restart programme is available for £5 here, while a bitesize digital version will be available on the Wolves App here.
5. Dendoncker wary of Bournemouth
Like West Ham, Bournemouth are in the thick of an intense Premier League relegation zone, which will pile the pressure on Howe’s side heading to Molineux, but from a Wolves perspective they must be wary. Dendoncker has spoken before the game and insists Wolves must find extra motivation to overcome their dangerous hosts.
"They’re still a very good team. We will have to be at our best again to beat them. They are fighting against relegation, so they will be really motivated and I think we will have to try and be even more motivated to keep the three points at home."