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Five goals, a red card, a spate of injuries and an astonishing comeback – Wolves’ meeting with Jesse Marsch‘s Leeds was one for the ages, but unfortunately for the home crowd, their side was on the wrong end of the scoreline come the full-time whistle.
With the Whites losing no fewer than four players to injury and finding themselves 2-0 down before the hour-mark, Wolves were seemingly set for a comfortable success before Raul Jimenez was controversially given his marching orders, and Leeds produced a phenomenal turnaround through Jack Harrison, Rodrigo and Luke Ayling.
Lage understandably took aim at Kevin Friend for Jimenez’s red card on the day, but his side’s capitulation at Molineux was all their own making, and it is surely a bridge too far for Wolves to challenge for a top-four finish now after a fourth defeat from six.
This weekend’s hosts remain firmly in contention for a European spot as they lie eighth in the table but five points behind fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur – who have a game in hand – so their Europa League or Europa Conference League fate remains out of their own hands.
Furthermore, Lage’s side are nothing if not inconsistent at home – making a habit of winning one then losing one at their Molineux headquarters in the Premier League – and not since December have Wolves drawn a game in the big time.
Any hopes of catching up to the European-chasing pack are seemingly dead and buried for Villa, whose main goal now is to consolidate their hold on a top-half spot as they remain ninth in the standings – level on points with Leicester City having played two games more.
While Wolves are yet to draw a league game in 2022, it has been over 12 months since Aston Villa last shared the spoils in a Premier League fixture away from home, so recent history certainly suggests that there will be a winner and loser in this battle.
Before being on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline against Leeds, Wolves edged a five-goal thriller with Villa by that margin back in October, and the Lions have only won one of their last five versus Wolves since returning to the Premier League in 2019.
Wolves will be forced into an attacking reshuffle with Jimenez suspended for Saturday’s game, so Hwang Hee-chan ought to link up with Francisco Trincao and Daniel Podence in the final third this weekend.
Midfielder Ruben Neves is fighting to return from a knee injury before the end of the season – Ki-Jana Hoever is keeping him company in the treatment room – while Nelson Semedo and Pedro Neto are both fitness doubts.
Willy Boly was given the nod in defence for the Leeds loss but could make way for the returning Max Kilman this week, as Joao Moutinho and Leander Dendoncker link up in midfield with Neves absent.
As for Villa, Gerrard only has one confirmed absentee to work around in the form of Marvelous Nakamba – who will turn out for the Under-23s on Friday – and Kortney Hause has seemingly recovered from an abdominal problem.
The visiting boss elected to drop Danny Ings in favour of Emiliano Buendia for the defeat to Arsenal but may call upon the ex-Liverpool and Southampton man to return alongside England goalscorer Ollie Watkins here.
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Ashley Young – who hit out at Arsenal’s celebrations in their 1-0 win last time out – endured a rough afternoon against Bukayo Saka and should drop out for the fit-again Lucas Digne.
Wolverhampton Wanderers possible starting lineup:
Sa; Kilman, Coady, Saiss; Jonny, Dendoncker, Moutinho, Ait-Nouri; Trincao, Hwang, Podence
Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne; McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey; Coutinho; Watkins, Ings