When Manchester City travel to the Molineux Stadium in West Midlands on Saturday evening to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers, they will do so with the knowledge that the top spot in the Premier League 2022/23 table could be up for grabs.
Pep Guardiola’s side are arriving to this fixture after defeating Borussia Dortmund 2-1 thanks to two spectacular strikes. Meanwhile, Wolverhampton Wanderers haven’t been in competitive action since they defeated Southampton 1-0 on nearly two weeks ago.
Despite just six matchdays in the Premier League so far, it has already been a turbulent ride full of ups and downs for the Wolves faithful. They went through a roller-coaster of emotions against Southampton on September 3 itself.
Awaiting to witness star signing of the summer Sasa Kalajdzic in action on his Premier League debut, his game came to an early end after suffering a horrific ACL injury in the first half of his life in England and he has now been ruled out for at least until the end of this year. Joining him in the treatment room is Mexican striker Raul Jimenez who has also had his fair share of struggles with injuries recently.
Because of these issues, Wolves were compelled to pull the trigger and they signed former Chelsea and Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa as a free agent this week. Costa, has hardly played any competitive football since leaving Atletico Mineiro in Brazil at the beginning of this year. He now finds himself back to the league where he earned a considerable amount of reputation for being a fiery and controversial character during his time with the Blues.
Bruno Lage’s side did not need Kalajdzic, Costa or Jimenez to shut down Southampton 1-0 two weeks ago as Daniel Podence grabbed the only goal of the game. Their trip to Anfield last weekend also got postponed in the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s death and funeral and Wolves are currently on a three-game unbeaten run ahead of the visit of the champions.
They have lost two of their six matches, however, and are 14th in the league table. What’s quite surprising is the fact that Wolves have both scored and conceded the least number of goals in the Premier League so far this season.
While that goes to show how defensively resilient they have been at the back, it also highlights their chronic problems in the final third of the pitch where they could utilise more firepower. They have conceded just one league goal on home turf and four in total so far this season.
Their title of being the Premier League’s best defensive unit after six matchdays will be tested to the limit when defending champions Manchester City pay a visit. Every inch of Wolves’ rear-guard nous will have to count if Erling Haaland and City are to walk away with anything less than three points.
Going into this matchday, the buildup from City’s point of view will no doubt surround the charismatic and mercurial Erling Braut Haaland once again. Even though he did not care to celebrate out of respect for his former side Borussia Dortmund, the Norwegian could’ve been forgiven after the beauty of the strike and the acrobatic excellence that he unleashed in front of goal in front of thousands of mesmerised supporters at the Etihad Stadium.
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Trailing by a goal going into the final 10 minutes of the contest, City did what City often do and made a comeback of epic proportions with tremendous style. First, John Stones struck a thunderbolt from outside the box that crashed into the net to cancel out Jude Bellingham’s opening goal for Dortmund on his return to England.
Then, Haaland channelled his inner acrobat to jump high in the air and meet Joao Cancelo’s outside-the-boot cross with the outside of his own shoe to divert the ball into the back of the net. Comparisons with Johan Cruyff after the legendary Dutchman’s iconic goal against Atletico Madrid while playing for Barcelona were natural and Haaland’s and former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola himself led the parade of adulations.
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It was the City number 9’s 13th goal of the season and he had notched up his 10th on the trip away to Aston Villa on September 3 that unfortunately ended in a 1-1 draw. Haaland’s 50th-minute strike at Villa Park was followed by Leon Bailey getting on the scoresheet in 74th minute and denying the Citizens two points from the fixture.
As a result of that draw – City’s second of the season – the defending champions are now in second place with four wins and 14 points, just one shy of Arsenal at the top. The side from London who take on Brentford later in the day, might have some catching up to do if City secure victory against Wolves that will take them to the top of the table, even if it might be momentarily.
City’s unbeaten run across all competitions now stands at eight matches – with four of their most recent five games ending in victory – and it has been over a year since the English champions lost a Premier League away match, winning 15 and drawing six since their loss to Tottenham Hotspur last August.
It was only three years ago in December 2019 when Wolves got the better of Pep Guardiola’s side at the Molineux and even went on to achieve an uncanny double over them that year. However, the defending champions have since won four on the trot against the hosts since then, and the four-goal Kevin De Bruyne masterclass helped City to a statement 5-1 triumph in this fixture back in May.
WOL vs MCI, Premier League 2022/23
Date: 17th September, 2022
Time: 5:00 PM IST
Venue: Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, West Midlands
Wolverhampton Wanderers Premier League form:
Wolverhampton Wanderers form (all competitions):
Manchester City Premier League form:
Manchester City form (all competitions):
Wolverhampton Wanderers wins: 4
Manchester City wins: 10
Wolverhampton Wanderers Team News:
New summer signing Sasa Kalajdzic is far from being the only player who is set for a lengthy period on the sidelines as Chiquinho also had to undergo surgery for his knee problem earlier in the summer and he will be unavailable for selection in the next few months.
Mexican forward Raul Jimenez was also absent from the squad list during the fixture with Southampton two weeks before but there’s optimism surrounding his return after the lengthy gap in fixtures and he might be fit to make it to the squad list here.
In any case, Diego Costa may come off the bench at some stage to make his debut for Wolves against the defending champions. If the 33-year-old needs more time to be match-fit and get in shape, then Hwang Hee-chan could be a suitable option.
Manchester City Team News:
Manchester City continue to miss out on the services of defender Aymeric Laporte who had suffered a knee injury at the Molineux last season. Guardiola shared a recent update regarding his availability and it is believed that Laporte could be expected back in action after the international break as he’s set to return to training soon.
In any case his absence might lead to new signing Manuel Akanji featuring at centre-back along with Ruben Dias while the short turnaround time from the Champions League game with Dortmund may make it difficult for Kyle Walker to make himself available for this trip.
Pep could also reinstate Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden in the forward line with Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez set to make way as the in-form Haaland leads the frontline.
Wolverhampton Wanderers possible starting lineup:
Sa; Jonny, Kilman, Collins, Ait-Nouri; Nunes, Neves, Moutinho; Neto, Jimenez, Podence
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Stones, Akanji, Dias, Cancelo; Gundogan, Rodri, De Bruyne; Silva, Haaland, Foden
We could have an exciting duel on our hands as the physically imposing centre-half duo of Max Kilman and Nathan Collins take on the unstoppable Erling Haaland at the Molineux on Saturday evening. It will be interesting to see who comes out in this encounter between the Premier League’s best scoring side and the most resilient defensive unit.
With plenty of wind blowing in his sails as he continues to upstage defenders that Haaland will wreak havoc once again. Wolves are also suffering from a host of injuries as well as a chronic impotency in front of goal. All of these factors could result in Manchester City gaining the upper hand and climbing to the top of the league with a win here.
WOL vs MCI Fantasy XI No. 1
WOL vs MCI Fantasy XI No. 2