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Any hopes of a top-four challenge appear to be slowly evaporating for this out-of-sorts Wolves side, who fell to their third top-flight defeat on the bounce in truly dismal fashion at home to Patrick Vieira‘s Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon.
Jean-Philippe Mateta drew first blood for the Eagles with 19 minutes on the clock before Wilfried Zaha‘s penalty killed the game off before half time, and Lage certainly made his frustrations known following the full-time whistle.
The injured Ki-Jana Hoever bore the brunt of his manager’s anger after Lage singled him out for criticism after the defeat, with the cracks now beginning to show as Wolves battle to keep their aspirations of qualifying for any continental competition alive.
Successive losses to Arsenal, West Ham United and Crystal Palace have seen Wolves plummet to eighth in the rankings – now five points behind Tottenham Hotspur in seventh place having played two games more – so their European destiny is no longer in their own hands.
An alarming tally of three defeats from their last four in all competitions at Molineux – failing to score in each of those losses – is not cause for optimism either, and worryingly, only Norwich City have struck fewer goals on home soil in the Premier League this term.
Roy Hodgson appeared to instil a sense of defensive stability into this Watford outfit, but it was not on display against the Gunners as the Hornets lost for the eighth time in a row on home soil, which has made their survival bid all the more difficult.
Watford enter the midweek round of fixtures still languishing in 19th in the table and three points adrift of the safety of 17th spot having played two more games than Everton, but a record of just one goal conceded from their last four top-flight away games is a welcome statistic ahead of Thursday.
However, three of Watford’s last four clashes with Wolves in the Premier League have ended in defeat, including a 2-0 loss at Vicarage Road back in September as Francisco Sierralta‘s own goal and Hwang Hee-chan‘s effort settled the contest.
Wolves defender Hoever was taken off after 25 minutes against Palace with a hamstring strain after Nelson Semedo was ruled out for a month with a similar issue, so Jonny may be required on the right-hand side this week.
Lage has no other concerns to contend with but will certainly consider some alterations after a dismal weekend performance, starting with a probable recall for Raul Jimenez at the tip of the attack.
Leander Dendoncker and Rayan Ait-Nouri could also freshen up the team at a crucial time for Lage, although Marcal was one of the bright sparks on Saturday and could retain his place in the side.
As for Watford, Joshua King may be able to return from his hamstring issue in time for Thursday, but Ismaila Sarr is unlikely to be passed fit for the contest.
Peter Etebo made the matchday squad for the first time since September in the defeat to Arsenal, but William Troost-Ekong and Nicolas Nkoulou remain absent, while Jeremy Ngakia is nursing a hamstring strain of his own.
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Watford did give Arsenal a good run for their money and could stick with the same XI for Thursday’s game, with Hernandez surely doing enough to warrant another start up front.
Wolverhampton Wanderers possible starting lineup:
Sa; Kilman, Coady, Saiss; Jonny, Neves, Dendoncker, Ait-Nouri; Hwang, Jimenez, Podence
Watford possible starting lineup:
Foster; Femenia, Cathcart, Samir, Kamara; Sissoko, Louza, Cleverley; Hernandez, Dennis, Pedro