Premier League 2018/19: Wolves vs Liverpool Preview
Molineux hosts its second night game of the month tonight. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool face Nuno’s Wolves in what has all the ingredients to be a Christmas cracker. Both sides have their own style and neither Nuno or Klopp will sacrifice their principles, so expect plenty of action and a hatful of goals. Famous last words.
Wolves come into the game on a fantastic run. Wins against Newcastle, Chelsea and Bournemouth has seen Wolves propel to seventh in the Premier League. Those three wins came on the back of a somewhat worrying spell where losses against Huddersfield and Cardiff amongst others set a few alarms off. Nuno has tweaked the tactics ever so slightly and the difference has been there for all to see.
Furthermore, after taking points off Chelsea, United, Arsenal and City already this season, Wolves will be up for the game. Not just the team. The fans. The city. It will certainly be a night to remember, irrespective of the final score.
The Reds of Liverpool have been very, very impressive. Not only have they conceded the fewest goals (seven), they’ve also scored the joint-second highest (37). Oh yeah, they’re also the only unbeaten side in the Premier League. After finally getting one over United last weekend, the mood around the Liverpool camp couldn’t be better.
If Klopp’s side are actually going to win the Premier League this season, they will need to beat Wolves. Yes, a draw wouldn’t be the worst result in the world, but with City at home to Palace, it would mean that Liverpool would be second on Christmas Day, rather than first. Not the biggest point in the world, but could prove to be psychological, all the same.
Wolves need to keep Liverpool out of the box
Although Liverpool have got an abundance of talent going forward, there are some interesting statistics regarding their goals scored. They’ve only scored thrice from outside the area this season, so if and it’s a very big if, Wolves can keep the Reds out the box, they could have a chance.
Another thing worth bearing in mind is that Liverpool’s starting XI is also up for debate. This is the first of four games in 14 days and arguably one of the ‘easier’ ones. After playing Wolves, Liverpool host Rafa Benitez’ Newcastle on Boxing Day before a big two games against Arsenal and Man City. Klopp will obviously play to win all of them, but how will he line up? Time will tell.
While we’ve established that Wolves need to keep Liverpool out of the box, but what exactly do Wolves need to do to win?
Alisson must be pressurised
In the most comparable games that they’ve conceded in, Burnley and Leicester away, the goals have one thing in common. Alisson makes a mistake for both. Against Leicester, Alisson plays around with the ball too much, gets dispossessed and Leicester eventually score.
Hell, only last week against Manchester United, Alisson fumbled one and Lingard equalised. Rather than focus on that, we are going to look at how Jack Cork scored for Burnley.
Despite them not needing to, Liverpool bring everyone back to defend against this Burnley corner. I suppose, one thing they’ve got in their advantage is the pace to break. The circled Liverpool trio are going for the zonal approach whereas the majority of other players are marking. Sort of. There are two Burnley players goal side in the six-yard box, but rather than speculate, let’s see how the corner develops.
In essence, everyone moves to the near post. The corner taker hits it to the far post, clearing the majority of Liverpool’s defenders out the way. Tarkowski (Burnley #5) smartly heads it back across goal. That’s when the bedlam begins.
Liverpool are slow to react
Looking at it from the reverse angle, you can see Burnley’s players are in the driving seat should Alisson make a mistake. Yes, there is an argument that the eventual goalscorer, Jack Cork, is offside when Alisson spills it. All the same, Liverpool’s defence is nowhere to be seen.
This is important because of Wolves’ forwards’ reaction speed when it comes to situations like this. Perhaps the only issue for Nuno’s side is the delivery or rather lack of it, from corners. Moutinho seldom beats the first man which could be a problem although we’ll see what happens later tonight.
Goals in the second half await
47% of goals in Liverpool’s games have come in or after the 60th minute. That accompanied with 44% of goals in Wolves’ games coming in the same timeframe, there’s a high chance of some late drama. Away from the timing of the goals, when do Liverpool normally turn it on? Let’s view the attack momentum from the aforementioned games against Burnley and Leicester.
As is evident here, Liverpool had a lot of the ball throughout the game, yet it wasn’t until Burnley scored and Klopp made some changes that Liverpool started to properly turn it on. That’s one of the big threats that Liverpool hold, they’ve got a healthy amount of depth within their squad. Burnley, despite taking the lead, never really seemed like they were going to win.
On the other hand, Leicester had a proper go and some would say they were slightly unlucky to lose. Take a look.
Disclaimer to begin with, the Leicester and Liverpool badges are the wrong way round. So Leicester are at the top, Liverpool on the bottom. There’s a crux of time where there’s much more green on the chart than blue. What this shows is that even though Liverpool are unbeaten thus far this season, they aren’t unbeatable.
After going off injured against Bournemouth last week, Diogo Jota has been ruled out by Nuno in the pre-match press conference. It’s not clear who will replace him just yet, it’ll no doubt be one of Ivan Cavaleiro, Helder Costa or Adama Traore. Personally, I’d opt for Cavaleiro. Nuno will more than likely go for Costa.
Away from Jota, there is one more unknown change to the starting XI. Saiss for either Moutinho, Neves or Gibbs-White would be the guess. If Saiss comes in for Gibbs-White, Moutinho will play inbetween the midfield and two forwards. It’ll be unchanged, apart from that.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has been ruled out for Klopp’s side. Milner, who wasn’t available against United at the weekend is in the running for the matchday 18. Klopp’s selection will be interesting to see, will he start Shaqiri and the normal front three? My gut says yes, but what does Klopp say? Tick tock.
Expect goals, expect fireworks and finally, expect action. That is all.
Until the next time.
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