Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Tottenham Hotspur
Referee: Paul Tierney
TV: Sky Sports
Spurs’ involvement in the EFL Cup on Wednesday means that Mourinho’s men get Boxing Day off, instead travelling to Molineux on the 27th.
Both teams have hit some recent turbulence, but perhaps Wolves more so having lost three of their last four fixtures. Most recently, Wolves fell to a Burnley side who in fairness have started to pick their game up, and deserved to win in ninety minutes. As a result, Wolves have slipped into the bottom half, and could get dragged further down before the New Year.
However, the really worrying sign for Nuno Espirito Santo is that his team is struggling a lot more in second halves than they were last season. The team usually draw a blank in the first half and that has been true ever since they were promoted to the Premier League. But this lack of threat appears to be continuing into the second halves this season. Part of the problem could be the unfortunate head injury that Raul Jiminez suffered just under a month ago, but Wolves need to find a solution as the striker will not be available for some time – the January transfer window beckons.
A comparison point can be made between Wolves and their next opponents Spurs on a few fronts. Both have, at some point these last two years, had a knack for beating the more advanced opponents. Wolves in a more traditional sense with Spurs obtaining this skill only recently under Mourinho. However, Wolves are a team that likes possession but fail to do much with it, which could suit the counter-attacking Spurs nicely.
Having said this, Tottenham are in need of some confidence having picked up one point from their last three fixtures. Crystal Palace played well in the game that got Spurs the one point, and the Lilywhites were unlucky not to get something from the Liverpool game. But both these disappointing results likely contributed to their downfall against Leicester last weekend, which resulted in a landslide down to sixth for Spurs.
The last three fixtures have been a demonstration of the difference between a Mourinho Spurs and a pre-Mourinho Spurs, exemplifying why the coach has achieved so much at a range of clubs. The Spurs manager clearly wanted to go for the win against Liverpool having brought on Dele Alli, which was rather uncharacteristic by all accounts. And the decision has disrupted the team, leaving them looking reminiscent of the old Spurs.
A troubling sign is that Spurs have begun conceding plenty of goals in contrasting fashion to the run of four clean sheets that Spurs went on before playing Palace. Some quite awful defending led to Stoke City’s equaliser in the Carabao Cup quarter final – it was their first shot of the match. Nevertheless, the Potters fell to two more goals and Spurs progressed to the semi-final, which may give them confidence for their upcoming league games.
Leander Dendoncker picked up an injury against Chelsea and missed the subsequent Burnley match. The Belgian could be in for a return on Sunday but this will likely be too soon.
Raul Jiminez remains out after the collision that resulted in a fractured skull in late November, while Jonny is out due to an ACL injury picked up in August.
Giovanni Lo Celso, who has impressed Mourinho this season, could be a doubt after being taken off with an injury against Leicester.
Erik Lamela was back in action for 25 minutes on Wednesday night. The Argentinian has been out since early November and could look to make a Premier League return this weekend.
Gareth Bale left the field at half time in the midweek EFL Cup game at Stoke, but the Welshman had just recovered from illness so was likely just being rested.
Meanwhile, Japhet Tanganga, who has been out since mid-December, edges closer to a return from injury issues.
Predicted Starting XIs
Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-4-3): Patricio; Saiss, Coady, Boly; Marcal, Moutinho, Otasowie, Semedo; Neto, Fabio Silva, Podence
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Reguilon, Dier, Alderweireld, Aurier; Hojbjerg Sissoko; Son, Ndombele, Bergwijn; Kane
Score Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1
It may be a tough ask for Mourinho to lift his players’ spirits, many of whom have seen similar disappointing situations in the past. However, Wolves themselves have plenty to work on over Christmas and will need to put in a strong performance to get at least a point.