The return of the Premier League is near for Wolves, who head to Elland Road for a reunion with Leeds United on Monday evening, and here are five things to know before kick-off.
1. RETURN STARS IN BOTH CAMPS
One area Nuno Espirito Santo will hope the international week proved beneficial for was regarding the fitness of Marcal. The Brazilian, who debuted well at Sheffield United, hasn’t been seen since hobbling off the Molineux pitch during the opening stages of the Manchester City clash last month. Following the departure of Ruben Vinagre, Nuno was forced to utilise Romain Saiss in the left-wing-back role against Fulham but will hope his options are greater this time around. The head coach sounded hopeful in his press conference, after the defender returned to training. Rayan Ait-Nouri’s transfer was confirmed after the Fulham win and the Frenchman could also come into contention, for what would be his Wolves debut.
Similarly for Leeds, Marcelo Bielsa could give winger Raphinha his Leeds bow. The Brazilian signed from Rennes earlier this month and is expected to feature in some capacity. Pablo Hernandez could be joining him the other side of the white line too, having missed each game since the opening day at Liverpool due to a groin problem. However, captain Liam Cooper is a doubt with a muscle problem, and Diego Llorente and Adam Forhsaw remain missing.
2. FRIENDS REUNITED
For a pair of duos, early adjustments may be in order, as they line up against their international teammates. On Wednesday Conor Coady and Kalvin Phillips were taking on the Danes together for England at Wembley, after both made their debuts together against the same opposition the previous month and joined forces to defeat Wales.
Similarly, Spanish duo Adama Traore and Rodrigo will no longer be singing from the same hymn sheet, having returned from international duty. Both featured in Spain’s recent fixtures in Portugal and Ukraine, but will look to put friendships aside at Elland Road.
Helder Costa will be experiencing a similar feeling too. The wide man spent three seasons at Molineux, alongside many members of the current Wolves team, and will face his former club for the first time since his departure. The Portuguese has proved a hit at Elland Road, starting all four of his side’s Premier League fixtures, and will want to retain his shirt for Monday’s clash.
3. FRESH CYCLE OF GAMES
Nuno regularly refers to cycles as his way of focusing and Monday’s fixture begins a fresh batch of four fixtures, sandwiched between two international weekends. Coming up before the next break are trips to Leeds United and Leicester City, either side of a Molineux double header against Newcastle United and Crystal Palace.
Wolves took six points from the 12 available during the previous round of games and Nuno will be looking to improve that tally this time around, starting with a positive result in West Yorkshire.
4. LEEDS GOALS GALORE
Wolves and Leeds have shared some classic encounters in the past and if the West Yorkshire club’s start to the season is anything to go by, Monday night could serve up a fresh thriller. Marcelo’s Bielsa’s side shared seven goals in each of their opening two fixtures and have since beaten Sheffield United and drawn with Manchester City – taking to life back in the Premier League extremely well.
Wolves cruised past United in the previous two meetings, winning 4-1 and 3-0 on the way to the Championship title, but things haven’t always been so straightforward. Back in 2015 Dave Edwards’ late winner capped off a sensational afternoon of drama at Molineux, as Wolves edged Leeds 4-3. Later that year Leeds were the benefiters of a goal fest, sneaking past the old gold by the odd goal in five.
With goals aplenty involving Leeds, both past and present, maybe we should gear up for more twists and turns on Monday.
To help you get through until Monday...— Wolves (@Wolves) October 16, 2020
5. GOAL HUNGRY STRIKERS
Two strikers who’ve enjoyed productive starts to the new campaign lock horns on Monday, but who will come to the fore, Raul Jimenez or Patrick Bamford? Wolves’ Mexican has been consistently potent during his time in the Premier League and his fine finishes against Sheffield United and Manchester City displayed his hunger to continue that run.
As for Bamford, he’s enjoying his first genuine crack at the top flight, and has showed the Premier League what it’s been missing. The striker already has four goals to his name and will be keen to continue that impressive start.
Speaking about scoring goals now, Jimenez discusses the only issue: “It’s the most difficult thing, to celebrate your goal, watching the stands and there’s no crowd. It’s difficult, but you have your teammates to celebrate with. I want to keep scoring, even if there are no fans, but it’s difficult.”