‘Makes no sense’ This Wolves XI can catch Chelsea cold
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ international stars will flood back to Compton Park over the next couple of days to prepare for Saturday’s meeting with Chelsea.
Ten Wolves players linked up with their countries after the defeat to Everton, leaving Nuno Espirito Santo’s first team squad down to the bare bones.
But September’s internationals have been and gone and club football is now the focus for Rui Patricio, Raul Jimenez and Co for the next month.
Wolves host Chelsea at Molineux on Saturday seeking their first Premier League win of the new season after taking three points from their opening four fixtures.
Nuno is guaranteed to field a different line-up to the one defeated at Everton two weeks ago, but just how many changes the Portuguese will make remains a mystery. We’re going to have a go at predicting it anyway though…
Defender Willy Boly is a definite absentee after his red card at Goodison Park. The 28-year-old, who decided against joining up with the Ivory Coast for international duty in order to spend time with his family, will return for Wolves’ Europa League clash with Braga.
Romain Saiss is a contender to replace Boly at the back but he didn’t feature for Morocco during the international break and reports of an ‘unspecified injury’ have since emerged.
One player who didn’t join up with his country is Matt Doherty who continues to recover from a knee injury picked up in pre-season. Doherty had a small surgical procedure recently to fix a non-football related issue which has been bugging him.
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Nuno’s biggest decision centres around Boly’s replacement with Saiss and on-loan Real Madrid man Jesus Vallejo the contenders.
Vallejo’s three appearances for Wolves to date, all of which have come in the Europa League, have seen him deployed on the right side of Wolves’ back three. However, Vallejo has played plenty of football on the left for his previous clubs with regular watchers commenting on his natural ability with both feet.
Speaking recently, Vallejo said: “At Wolverhampton I tend to play more on the right side, but I can genuinely play in any of the three defensive positions. The truth is I feel very at ease in Nuno’s system.”
Nuno has rotated his wing-backs so far this season but with in-form Adama Traore and Jonny Castro Otto not involved internationally – and Doherty struggling fitness wise – the Spaniards are favourites to start against Chelsea.
Midfielders Leander Dendoncker (90 mins), Ruben Neves (90 mins) and Joao Moutinho (five mins) weren’t overused which will come as a huge boost to Wolves.
However, Nuno does have a decision to make in attack. Diogo Jota, who was twice an unused substitute for Portugal over the past fortnight, was benched at Everton but he’s expected to return to face a side he tormented last season.
Jota’s regular partner and Wolves’ top scorer Raul Jimenez made a 7,000 mile round trip for Mexico’s friendlies with USA and Argentina and it remains unclear whether he’ll complete a full training session ahead of Chelsea.
Taking Jimenez’s air miles into consideration it seems a no brainer that Patrick Cutrone will start against Chelsea. The Italian enjoyed a positive full Premier League debut against Everton and was unfortunate not to score.
Jimenez’s poorest performances in a Wolves shirt last season were against Watford and Huddersfield on home soil, two matches which took place directly after international jaunts with Mexico.
Jimenez’s goalscoring return this season suggests otherwise, but with important fixtures coming thick and fast it makes no sense to rush him into the starting XI with two far fresher forwards at Wolves’ disposal.
Predicted starting XI
(3-5-2): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Vallejo; Traore, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Cutrone, Jota