Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Cardiff City
Referee: Andre Marriner
An underwhelming Wolves host an uninspired Cardiff City on Saturday as both teams will be looking to bounce back from mid-week defeats which hurt their Europa League and survival goals.
Wolves suffered a defeat against all but relegated Huddersfield, in a manner which they usually serve to their opponents, conceding a last-minute goal. A point would have been enough to send them back 7th but they failed to capitalise and are stuck in 8th below Watford on goal difference. Their lacklustre performance came as a shock considering they were playing bottom of the league and entered the game undefeated in their last eight games. They were uncharacteristically quiet in front of goal and didn’t really create any clear-cut chances and didn’t register a shot on target until the second half.
Wolves have again shown their inconsistency which has been present during this years campaign. Taking nothing away from Huddersfield’s encouraging performance, Nuno certainly won’t be happy reflecting on their last three performances. They seem to have gone off the burner in recent outings – getting an unmerited last-minute draw against Newcastle and then getting lucky to leave Bournemouth with a point after scoring a penalty before Josh King missing one straight after to seemingly take all three points following by their uninspired performance at the John Smith Stadium.
Nuno needs to address the inconsistency as his men struggle to maintain the motivation and energy which they put on display when comfortably dispatching their opposition. His frustrations came through on the touchline early on in Yorkshire when Doherty wasted a chance to test the keeper which shows his displeasure in his teams form in recent fixtures.
Cardiff on the other hand suffered a hefty 3-0 battering when Everton visited the Bluebirds in Wales. Before this, they were embarrassed again at home against Watford who demolished Neil Warnock’s side 5-1. Cardiff failed to build on their away win at Southampton and conceding eight in two games will not instill the team with confidence.
They’ve dropped back into the relegation zone as results on Wednesday night went against them. Neil Warnock won’t allow his men to get off lightly for these two poor home outings and will expect his squad to make up for it on their excursion to the Midlands. Warnock will be less impressed that his team didn’t manage a shot on target in the 90 minutes and gave the verdict that two goals were the result of individual errors. Cardiff have now lost four of their last six home games with a draw and a win to complete the set. However, an away game could be exactly what they need after their last travel away produced a vital win against relegation rivals Southampton.
Wolves seem to be heading for a similar slump which they encountered towards the end of 2018 where they were losing to struggling teams while stealing a few points from the Premier League powerhouses. Cardiff will have to regroup and Warnock’s war cry of saying he wants players “in the trenches” will add to the pressure already mounting on his players. At least they won’t have to worry about the pressure of playing in front of their home fans but it’s always difficult to pick up points on the road in the Premier League, especially at Molineux.
Wolves will be hoping Raul Jimenez can continue to spearhead their attack and add to his double-figure goal tally which he achieved with the penalty against Bournemouth. Since Diogo Jota’s hat trick heroics against Leicester, he has yet to add to his own goal count with Jimenez being solely relied on most of the time.
There have been fewer contributions in goals from Neves and Moutinho who were grabbing a few goals themselves early in the season. The failure to introduce more attacking options in the January transfer window means during these slumps in form, there are no fresh options to change things for Nuno’s side.
Nuno has been fortunate this season as injuries have not been a problem they have encountered and that has been a great achievement with a dash of luck considering their small squad size. He has been able to consistently field his favoured starting XI more often than not and even though they lost last time out, the warning bells may not be worrying Nuno enough to change his regular setup for now.
He did begin to introduce the likes of Cavaleiro and Gibbs-White when their side were thick in their bad form and they were able to make some impacts from game to game. This could be an option he is starting to consider again after the deflating defeat against bottom of the table Huddersfield.
In contrast to Wolves, Cardiff’s top scorer is central defender Sol Bamba with four goals this campaign. Sol Bamba is a vital part of the Cardiff core, surprising with goals and less surprisingly leading in most tackles for the club with 73 this season. However, on loan striker Oumar Niasse will be available again who couldn’t feature against his parent club, Everton, in the mid-week fixture. He has been promising for Cardiff providing more energy and movement compared to other options utilised in the first half of the season and he could provide another avenue to help breach the solid Wolves defence.
Many of Cardiff’s star players were not available against Everton but the likes of Camarasa, Ralls and Arter should be available for the weekend. The concern from Camarasa’s personal medical team seem to have subsided and Warnock is looking forward to his return despite the controversy surrounding his injury. This could mean a reshuffle of the team who were lifeless in the defeat to Everton.
Predicted Starting XIs
Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-5-2): Rui Patricio; Bennett, Boly, Coady; Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Jimenez, Jota
Cardiff City (4-4-2): Etheridge; Bennett, Bamba, Morrison, Ecuelue Manga; Hoilett, Ralls, Arter, Camarasa; Reid, Niasse
Score Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Cardiff City 1
Even though Wolves’ stats outweigh Cardiff’s in every department this season, Wolves lost 2-1 against Cardiff in the away fixture back in November and they also allowed Huddersfield to do the double over them this season. Wolves tend to struggle against weaker opposition.
History tends to repeat itself but if the previous two games for Cardiff are anything to go by, then Wolves can feel confident. However, both side are not playing well at the minute and this is a great opportunity which could either catapult Wolves into a Europa League spot or Cardiff out of the relegation zone depending on the outcome of the Southampton game. Whoever wants it more, will win this game.