Wolverhampton Wanderers against Liverpool is a top of the tables clash. And yes, that should say tables, and no, Wolves didn’t get awarded an extra 30 points for their impressive comeback from 2-0 down at Southampton on Saturday.
Since they returned to the Premier League in the summer of 2018, Wolves have been the most effective team from the pack against the big six clubs. That’s the table the Old Gold top. They’ve picked up six wins from their 19 league matches against the top teams, and they knocked Liverpool and Manchester United out of the FA Cup last season too.
If Wolves fans don’t refer to their manager as Super NES, they’re doing it wrong.
This should be one of Liverpool’s toughest remaining fixtures as they stride merrily towards the title. Aside from Manchester City, who are 2/1 favourites to be the first team to defeat the Reds in the league this season, Wolves are deemed the most likely hurdle to trip the champions-elect up.
And Molineux comes alive for evening games. As it should with a DJ and light show. Whatever bangers he drops, it fires the home team up, as they’ve won five and drawn two of their evening league matches at home in the last year, putting United, Arsenal and Man City to the sword along the way.
The problem for Nuno’s boys is that Liverpool are top of a table too, and not just the Premier League one. Since the start of last season, Jürgen Klopp’s team have a near-impeccable record against teams from outside the big six, having amassed more points than any of the other top sides.
The Reds have played 43 league games against the smaller teams, winning 40 and drawing the other three. They’ve only trailed in six of those matches, and in five of them it was for under half an hour.
So while Wolves have the best record against the big boys, they’ll have to do well to even land a glove on Liverpool, never mind send them sprawling across the Molineux canvas. The Reds can’t keep winning forever, but it’d take a brave man to bet against them any time soon. And I’m a coward.
But even if the visitors take the lead, we shouldn’t rule out a comeback. Wolves have earned 18 points from losing positions this season, the most of any team in the division, and came from two goals down to beat the champions.
Their last three league meetings with Liverpool have seen the Reds win to nil though. You can get 9/5 that they’ll do so here, and as they have in their previous seven league matches, there’s a distinct possibility they will here.
Of course, Wolves could argue they scored against Liverpool in their recent run. Pedro Neto’s strike was ruled out by VAR after Jonny was millimetres offside in the build-up. Ironically enough, Jonny’s always running around, trying to find certainty.
Despite Liverpool’s excellent recent defensive record, they have been allowing clear-cut chances. In the last two matches, Giovani Lo Celso and Andreas Pereira both missed golden opportunities against the Reds. Maybe Nuno should instruct his team to aim crosses toward the back post?
Wolves definitely have the tools to create clear-cut chances – they’ve averaged 1.9 per home game this season and had four against City – so they should get on the score sheet. But Liverpool will probably score at least twice, just as they have in 27 of their last 31 league matches.
Wolves certainly have players with the potential to get at the Reds, with Adama Traoré their main threat. His Champions League winning uncle Djimi used to hurt Liverpool on a regular basis, so perhaps he passed on some tips.
Traoré has scored four league goals against the big six clubs this season, a tally only Danny Ings can top among players from the other 14 teams. In fact, Traoré has only scored against the top teams full stop. The man for the big occasion, it seems.
Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah were mentioned as potential scorers in my preview of Liverpool vs. United. You’re welcome. That pairing got the goals in this fixture last season too.
Sadio Mané has scored the last three goals in matches between these sides though, and has been wasting good chances recently. In Liverpool’s last six league matches he has scored two goals but taken 15 shots in the box and missed four clear-cut chances. Another goal won’t be far away if the opportunities keep flowing.