Liverpool v Wolves | Opposition Insight

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By Daniel Ghorbal

Liverpool vs Wolverhampton Wanderers: Opposition Preview

Going into the last game of the season knowing a premier league title could still be up for grabs is an incredibly exciting prospect and one that awaits Liverpool as they attempt to stage a dramatic final day push. A victory and dropped points for Manchester City would bring the title to Anfield, just 6 days before a huge Champions League final too. To say we have been spoilt this season would be an understatement, with a relentless nature to the season following a team that just won’t stop. Key men were rested against Southampton in what was yet another dominant Liverpool display, and a nearly full strength side will await the visit of Wolves on this potentially incredible final day.

Wolves’ season has curtailed somewhat from a promising start, with fans disappointed about the way in which their form has drastically worsened since the turn of the year. From the minute Bruno Lage was appointed as manager, it was made very apparent they’d be operating with one of the smallest squads in the league, but the personnel of that best XI was arguably the 7th or 8th best in the country.

Obviously though, when injuries happen it doesn’t take much for the rhythm of the team to suddenly struggle and that is undoubtedly what has happened to wolves. Prior to the drop off, they were defensively one of the best teams in the league, operating with a 3-5-2 system similar to that of their early  success under Nuno, with new signing Jose Sa looking to be a shrewd addition between the sticks. As well as Sa, the likes of Kilman, Semedo and Coady were all terrific and a key reason behind the low margin games.

Sometimes they would be incredibly frustrating to watch going forward, but the main thing to say about them is that they would rarely concede more than one, and when that is the case you always have a chance in games.

One turning point in the season was a disappointing loss away at Arsenal, a game in which two late goals from the Gunners saw Wolves miss out on a huge opportunity to show their intent on reaching the European places. Ever since then, it just seems like the confidence has been sapped out of Lage’s side, especially going forward. Raul Jimenez was so pivotal to wolves before his horror injury sustained two years ago, but since his return to say the goals haven’t flowed is putting it nicely.

On his day he is clearly an extremely effective Premier League striker but a lack of goalscoring instincts as of late means the goals for the whole team aren’t flowing. Lage’s side are the fourth lowest scorers in the division, and with nothing to play for heading into the final day, the coach may use it as an opportunity to experiment and see if his side can really hurt a top team. Sitting back and defending is a tactic they have gone for all season, but with the likes of Pedro Neto and Trincao potentially on the pitch, they certainly have the quality to score goals when given the ball in dangerous areas.

If this was a fixture with the European places still within reach, then the approach would certainly be to sit and hold on, but with players arguably playing for their places next season, expressing themselves will be on the forefront of their minds.

One thing that will motivate Wolves heading to Anfield was how well they performed in the reverse fixture back in winter. On that day, it took a late Divock Origi winner to break the deadlock and give Liverpool a crucial three points. What was so impressive about those in Black and Gold that day was how well they dealt with individuals, most notably Ait-Nouri on Salah who nullified Liverpool’s talisman.

If they are able to keep things tight in the first half they will certainly be fuelled by knowing that they could be the only side to win at Anfield in the league this season. Of course they are well aware of the qualities this title-challenging side possess, but with nothing to lose and the chance of being party-poopers up for grabs, the midlands outfit will certainly demonstrate why they are still a top half club.

Ultimately, this is a must win for Liverpool who know that even a resounding victory might not be enough to win the title. But despite that, the mood around Anfield be buoyant as the home crowd appreciate just what a tremendous side they are watching.

With two cups already won and another two up for grabs, a show of appreciation for these wonderful footballers will undoubtedly echo around the ground, and the key thing to remember is that football is a funny game. Anything can happen. If Liverpool go out and do the business then they can have no complaints, what happens at the Etihad will not distract these footballers from doing the job at hand and finishing the league season in superb form.

Predicted Wolves team: Sa, Semedo, Toti, Coady, Saiss, Ait-Nouri, Neves, Moutinho, Neto, Trincao, Jimenez


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