Ahead of Liverpool’s match with Wolverhampton, we were lucky to speak with Wolves fan Ryan Plant [@RyanPlant1998] and discuss how he believes the opponents will fair against the Reds.
Expect an open match
What are your expectations for Friday’s match?
“I’m expecting a very open, end-to-end game. It isn’t Nuno Esprito Santo or Wolves’ style to revert to defensive, negative tactics for any team in the Premier League – and wasn’t the case last season against Manchester City whilst still a Championship side – so I expect Liverpool to have chances, and perhaps to put a few away. But I’m excited to see Wolves on the counter with Nathaniel Clyne perhaps being an area that can be targeted by Diogo Jota, a star man of recent weeks IF he’s fit.”
Jota a doubt
What is your predicted starting XI for Wolverhampton?
“It is hard to say, the formation has changed slightly in recent weeks to a 3-4-1-2 with Morgan Gibbs-White now more involved. I think it’ll be the same as Bournemouth on Saturday if Jota is fit: Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Neves, Gibbs-White, Moutinho, Jonny; Jota or Cavaleiro, Jimenez.”
‘Wolves have made a habit of doing better against bigger teams’
Do you think that Wolves can be the team to stop Liverpool’s unbeated run?
“Honestly, yes. Nuno’s Wolves have made a habit of doing better against the so-called ‘bigger’ teams throughout his time as manager. He’s been behind draws away to Arsenal and Manchester United, a penalty-shootout after extra-time loss and draw to Manchester City and a win against Chelsea since the start of last season.”
“Fans shouldn’t underestimate the effect it has.”
As Liverpool currently sit top of the table, does that bring extra motivation to get a positive result?
“The past three wins in a row, against Chelsea, Newcastle United and Bournemouth, mean that the pressure is off Wolves slightly. Of course, it’d be great to win and Nuno will absolutely try his hardest, but Fulham on Boxing Day is a more realistic three-points opportunity and beating teams mid-table and below is much more important to create space away from 18th place.
Of course, Liverpool are under pressure with City close behind, so perhaps Nuno and the team will enjoy the opportunity to upset the odds again. The instructions will be to press high, to make it difficult for Liverpool and to enjoy the occasion. It’s what being promoted is all about. Molineux under the floodlights is a very, very special place and Liverpool’s squad, staff and fans shouldn’t underestimate the effect it has.”
“Raul Jimenez has been in brilliant form”
What is your Liverpool and Wolves Combined Lineup?
“It’s hard to find space for Wolves players, but I’ll be biased and base my team on Nuno’s 3-4-3 system. Raul Jimenez has been in brilliant form, five goals and five assists at this point of the season for a lone striker in a newly-promoted team makes him impossible to leave out for me: Alisson; Gomez, Coady, Van Dijk; TAA, Henderson, Neves, Robertson; Salah, Jimenez, Mane.”
“Top half is now the aim”
Are you surprised that Wolves are currently sitting in the top half of the table? Or was this something that was expected?
“Wolves fans approached the season slightly sceptically but very, very excitedly. Under owners Fosun International and Nuno the style of football has been joyous and the best in a generation. Honestly, I believe that last season’s squad would comfortably survive in this season’s Premier League, so additions of the quality of Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho – amongst others – made a top-half finish a real possibility.
Remarkably, many of the squad, particularly the wingers, haven’t yet reached top gear, but I think top half is now the aim come the end of the season. Past seasons in the Premier League haven’t been great to Wolves, so there will always be an air of realism and Nuno keeps everyone level headed win, lose or draw.”