Lage | On absentees, Chelsea and improving the group

Bruno Lage insists his players have to be at the top of their game against Chelsea, but they’ll be exactly that thanks to meticulous planning in the lead up.

Despite injury and Covid problems within the squad, Lage and his staff are putting in the long hours in meetings, ensuring each individual is improving day by day. Chelsea are the current Champions League holders, and well in the chase for the Premier League title, but Wolves have impressed against both of their rivals for top spot already this month, and Lage is expecting another tightly-fought contest come Sunday.

On problems within the group

“We are waiting on what happened in the last game about Rayan and Hwang, trying to understand how much time they need to recover. With Covid we have two players positive, we have Yerson and Fabio. We’re waiting for the second one to see if the positives are real or not. That’s the news for now.

“It’s important for my players to be fit. When we talk about the two games, Leeds and Liverpool, I didn’t have Marcal on the bench, and at Brighton we had Marcal on the bench, so that’s why it’s important for me to have my players fit. Marcal went and did also very well, that’s why it’s so important. I want my players fit and ready to play, and after I take my decisions.”

On Chelsea’s strengths

“These types of teams, they don’t have bad moments. They have big players and are one of the best teams in the world. They won the last Champions League, they have a lot of experience, the manger has a lot of experience, he can replace several players because they have a good squad, and they do very well in his system, so they are very hard guys to play against, and they dominate their system.

“They can play 3-4-3, 3-5-2 and they know how to play in both ways. But for us this is a challenge. That’s why, when I had this invitation from Wolves, I didn’t think twice. This is the kind of thing you want, you want to compete, these are the teams me and my players want to play against. Every time is a massive challenge.

“We played Liverpool, after that Manchester City, then we went to Brighton and it was a big challenge against [Graham] Potter and his players, now come Chelsea, another big challenge for us. It’s an opportunity for us. We’re at home, with our fans and we want to play our game, with every time having the mentality to try to win the game.”

On taking on the best

“You can see by our results, every time the difference is by one goal, for us or the opponent. It’s very balanced, but when you play against these teams, you need to be on your top. If you have one day not at the top and they come with everything, they can beat you with three or four, so that’s why it’s a big challenge for us to play against them for the tests.

“That’s the main thing, we’re playing at home, against Liverpool we had one strategy, it was OK, against City it was a different strategy and we prepared well, and on Sunday we’ll look to create a lot of problems against Chelsea.”

On improving as a group

“I came, I tried to understand how the team plays, how I can play with these players, and tried to take the best from them, and every time try to play our game. What I want, and I can see, is little conquers day by day. I believe the way we played in the first-half of the season, in some games the chances we’re creating, we could score three or four more goals, but if we’d manage the team in a different way we’d lose some points.

“In the end we won against Aston Villa, but against Leeds and Liverpool we lost points. With three or four more goals, we could talk about a different position, but I don’t put any targets, what I want for now is to continue to improve our team, to continue to play our game, to continue to create chances – the goals will come.

“It’s important for our forwards to score goals, but the same way I ask the team to be compact when they are defending, I also ask the defenders when they get a chance to score goals. This is teamwork, for now we’re enjoying the moment, another challenge in front, three points to try to win.”

On working as a whole

“The way we work, when I see the team, I see some things very good and the little things I want them to improve because every time you are there to improve. The game is a good test for you to see how the team is, improving, and also, we need to understand which things are more important in training.

“Now, in this period, we don’t have too much time to train. We work on a lot of things, the defenders work hard every day, we have meetings with just the defenders and my staff, sometimes the three centre backs, sometimes the line of five and sometimes it’s the induvial, where you put your feet or body, how you’re going to play against a forward – little but important things. Right foot, left foot, if he comes more inside or outside, little details we work on a lot.

“One good example is Rayan, the way he’s grown up, especially in the individual positions to be a better player. We know he can do a lot of things in an offensive way; he creates a lot of situations to cross, assist and make one-twos with his team mates, but also he needs to improve the way he defends. We start this individual work with all of them.”