West Ham United vs Wolves
Venue: London Stadium
Referee: Martin Atkinson
West Ham host Wolves in an intriguing match-up on Sunday evening. Since Nuno Espirito Santo’s team return to the top flight in 2018, they have won all four Premier League fixtures against the Hammers without conceding a goal. David Moyes’ side lost both of their opening games, and avoiding defeat against an excellent Wolves side will help release some of the pressure on him and his players.
After dispatching Sheffield United with ease in their first match of the season, Wolves then had the misfortune of visiting Manchester City at the Etihad. Despite a decent performance, City were simply too good for their opponents, running out 3-1 winners. However, with two goals in his first two games of this season, Raul Jimenez is picking up from where he left off last season. The Mexican striker has bagged three times in his four league appearances against the East London outfit, and with the Irons looking shaky at the back, you would be foolish to bet against him finding the net again.
West Ham were nothing short of shambolic in their opening day defeat to Newcastle, but did show signs of improvements in defeat to Arsenal. It took an 85th minute winner from Eddie Nketiah to prevent the Hammers from taking a deserved point from the game. Teams under David Moyes do have a habit of picking up vital points while the pressure is on, a habit that helped kept West Ham up last season. However, after testing positive for coronavirus, Moyes will have to remain at home for this one, with Issa Diop and Josh Cullen also missing due to positive Covid-19 tests. Michail Antonio scored his first goal of the season at the Emirates, and will be aiming to continue his strong form in front of goal.
With both sides likely to deploy three-at-the-back formations, this match will be an intriguing watch from a tactical viewpoint. With the added dynamic of newly transferred players making their debuts, this should make great viewing.
As mentioned, the hosts will be without Diop at the heart of their defence, so it is expected the back three will consist of Angelo Ogbonna, Fabian Balbuena and Aaron Cresswell. Mark Noble is set to recover from a toe injury to feature in the matchday squad, but with the Hammers producing a far superior performance while playing 3-4-3, he could miss out, with Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek likely to start.
Wolves will still be missing Jonny from their matchday squad as he continues to recover from a knee injury. Ruben Vinagre looks set to start in the left wing-back berth, while Nelson Semedo could make his debut on the opposite side. The Portuguese right-back arrived this week from Barcelona in a €30 million move. Fellow Portuguese Daniel Podence is expected to continue his good start to the season in front of Semedo, leaving Adama Traore having to settle for a place on the bench or at left-wing.
Predicted Starting XIs
West Ham: Fabianski; Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Fredericks, Rice, Soucek, Masuaku; Bowen, Antonio, Fornals.
Wolves: Patricio; Boly, Coady, Saiss; Semedo, Dendoncker, Neves, Vinagre; Podence, Jimenez, Neto.
Score Prediction: West Ham 1-2 Wolves
With the Irons looking more settled in their 3-4-3 formation, I expect this to be a closer affair than previous meetings between the two clubs. However, Wolves are more than just an established Premier League team now, with European football their minimum ambition every season. West Ham are not as settled, with not even David Moyes knowing his best XI at present. Without the Scot on the sidelines, I expect the visitors to take full advantage and come away from London with all three points.