Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Manchester City
Referee: Andre Marriner
TV: Sky Sports
Manchester City begin their 2020/21 Premier League campaign at Molineux on Monday evening, looking to avenge the pair of league defeats suffered at the hands of Wolves in 2019/20.
Wolves impressed in their defeat of Sheffield United in the opening weekend, scoring two in a blistering start and weathering the storm that followed to return to the Black Country with a clean sheet intact. City will likely prove sterner opponents however, though their match-sharpness remains to be seen following their extended break after their dismal Champions League quarter-final exit a month ago.
Nuno Espírito Santo is without the recently departed Diogo Jota and the injured Jonny Castro Otto, but otherwise has a fully fit squad to choose from. Similarly, City are at almost full strength, only missingthe injured Sergio Agüero and Covid-stricken Aymeric Laporte and İlkay Gündoğan.
Wolves handed debuts to summer signings Marçal and Vitinha as well as youngster Oskar Buur against Sheffield United and have an almost fully fit squad to choose from once again. Rui Patrício will continue in goal, likely behind the established three-man defence consisting of Willy Boly, Conor Coady and Bramall Lane goalscorer Roman Saïss. Marçal played the full 90 minutes at left wing-back and is expected to return having been overlooked for the midweek Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Stoke City.
Adama Traoré performed admirably in a fairly unfamiliar role at right wing-back against the Blades, but the increased threat posed by City may persuade Nuno Espírito Santo to deploy the more defensively minded Oskar Buur, who made his first start for the club on Thursday.
In midfield, Rúben Neves was given a rare rest last weekend and could return to league action on Monday. João Moutinho and Leander Dendoncker occupied the spots in the middle against Sheffield United with Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto in more advanced roles.
Nuno may choose to sacrifice either Podence or Neto in favour of packing the midfield, and could even drop both to grant a forward role for Adama Traoré. Raúl Jiménez appears to be the only undroppable attacker in Wolves’ squad and will again spearhead the attack, with Vitinha and Fábio Silva again set for a place among the substitutes after starting against Stoke.
Though their opponents have already played twice this season, this is Manchester City’s first outing of the delayed 2020/21 campaign. Pep Guardiola has become known for unpredictable team selections during his time in Manchester, few more so than his failed experiment against Lyon in the Champions League in August.
His City side have often found difficulty when lining up against sides deploying a back three and endured further misery despite matching the French club’s formation. Guardiola insisted that his tactics were not to blame for their exit, but will secretly know that a well-drilled Wolves side are capable of reading the blueprint of Lyon’s victory and replicating it, having done the double over City in 2019/20.
Ederson will start in goal, though it is frighteningly difficult to predict who or many will start in the defence in front of him. If the Citizens line up with a back four, two of Fernandinho, Eric Garcia or Nathan Aké will line up in the middle, the latter of whom could make his City bow following a big-money move from Bournemouth.
John Stones and Nicolás Otamendi remain in contention but appear to have fallen irreparably down the pecking order, while this fixture comes just too soon for Aymeric Laporte, who is returning from a positive Covid-19 test.
Kyle Walker remains the first choice at right-back, though the improving form of João Cancelo could see the Englishman benched on this occasion. Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko are fit and available at left-back, though Cancelo featured at left wing-back against Lyon and could retain his place. In midfield, İlkay Gündoğan’s positive Covid result means Kevin De Bruyne should be joined by Rodri and one of Phil Foden or Bernardo Silva in the middle.
Sergio Agüero is still unavailable through injury, leaving the door open for Gabriel Jesus, while new signing Ferran Torres will battle with Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez for a role on the wings if City start with a back four.
Predicted Starting XIs
Wolves (3-5-2): Patrício; Boly, Coady, Saïss; Traoré, Neves, Dendoncker, Moutinho, Marçal; Neto, Jiménez
Man City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Garcia, Cancelo; Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling
Score Prediction: Wolves 1-2 Manchester City
Wolves looked good against Sheffield United but rode their luck defensively on occasions. Though Wolves and Adama Traoré have terrorised City in recent fixtures, a fresh City side should have too much for their opponents on Monday evening.