Leeds United will travel to the Molineux to face Wolves this Friday night in a bid to stay away from the relegation zone.
Wolves have had an impressive 2021/22 season and are currently eighth in the Premier League table. They were once in the thick of things as far as the top-four race is concerned but have fallen off recently, and now only have an outside chance of qualifying for the Champions League. European football, however, is still very much in their reach with a seventh-placed finish providing entry into the UEFA Europa Conference League.
Wolves have 46 points in 29 matches and are five points off fourth-placed Arsenal, who have two games in hand. They were on a three-game losing streak but returned to winning ways recently, registering back-to-back victories over Watford and Everton to get back into contention for European spots. With nine matches remaining in the season, Bruno Lage’s side will want to push for a top-seven finish.
Leeds United are currently 16th in the Premier League table and struggling to string together a run of favourable results to stay clear of the relegation zone. They are just four points off 18th-placed Watford in the league table and five points off 19th-placed Burnley, who have two games in hand over the Yorkshire-based club.
Jesse Marsch’s side have won just one of their last ten Premier League matches, a run of form that has dragged them into the battle for survival. Their solitary win over the previous ten matches came in their last fixture against fellow relegation-battlers Norwich City.
The 2-1 win over the Canaries would have given Leeds some much-needed boost entering into the business stage of the season. Leeds cannot afford to drop too many points and risk a return to the Championship for the next season. They need to build on the win over Norwich in the quest to stay safe, and Wolves are the first team standing in their way.
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Looking to build on back-to-back wins.
— Wolves (@Wolves) March 17, 2022
Bruno Lage could be forced to make a few changes to the lineup that started against Everton. Full-back Nelson Semedo continues to be absent, having picked up a hamstring injury in their 2-1 defeat to Arsenal earlier this month.
Centre-forward Hwang Hee-chan could also miss out after picking up a hip injury in Wolves’ 1-0 win over Everton last weekend. He was taken off just 16 minutes into the game but has an outside chance of making the squad for the Leeds match-up. Pedro Neto is only expected back after the international break.
Lage, as a result, could switch to a front three, with Francisco Trincao coming into the starting XI. While the three centre-backs – Max Kilman, Conor Coady and Romain Saiss – are set to keep their respective spots, midfielder Leander Dendoncker could miss out to accommodate the extra forward in Trincao, who will line up alongside Raul Jimenez and Daniel Podence
Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho will continue manning the midfield. Marcal started against Everton, but Rayan Ait-Nouri could return against Leeds at the left wing-back spot as he provides much more going forward and could play an important role in exploiting the leaky Leeds defence. Jonny is expected to continue in the right wing-back position.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Sa; Kilman, Coady, Saiss; Otto, Neves, Moutinho, Ait-Nouri; Trincao, Jimenez, Podence
Leeds United have been boosted by the returns of Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper, who are back in training and are expected to contribute in some capacity against Wolves. Leo Hjelde, Tyler Roberts and Junior Firpo are still out due to injuries and will play no role in the match.
🗣️ "It's a positive momentum swing for us"
Leeds United head coach Jesse Marsch on the return to fitness of Kalvin Phillips & Liam Cooper ahead of the trip to Wolves (Fri, KO: 20:00)
— BBC Sport West Yorkshire (@BBCWYS) March 17, 2022
Jesse Marsch would not want to tinker much with the side that defeated Norwich 2-1 in their last match. But the Leeds manager could be without the services of Rodrigo, who scored their opening goal against the Canaries, due to a thigh problem. This could see Mateusz Klich take up the No. 10 role, a position he has been used in previously this season.
Illan Meslier will retain his spot between the ,sticks with the back-four of Luke Ayling, Diego Llorente, Pascal Struijk and Stuart Dallas also being persisted with by Marsch. The two central midfield positions will be taken up by Adam Forshaw and Robin Koch, who is primarily a centre-back but has mainly played as a defensive midfielder this season.
Daniel James, Klich, Raphinha and Patrick Bamford will complete their attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Struijk, Dallas; Koch, Forshaw; Raphinha, Klich, James; Bamford
- Wolves and Leeds have faced off in 100 matches, with the former winning 35 compared to Leeds’ 42, while 23 matches have finished in draws.
- Leeds have failed to win in their last nine visits to the Molineux.
- Wolves have been unbeaten in their last six meetings against Leeds United, a run that has lasted six years now with their last defeat to the Whites coming in 2016.
- Wolves have been unbeaten in four of their last five Premier League matches played on a Friday.
- Wolves have conceded just 23 goals this season, fewer than all but the top-three sides (Manchester City, Liverpool & Chelsea) in the league table.
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— barcacentre (@barcacentre) March 9, 2022
While Wolves go into the match as the favourites, a lot of eyes will be on Leeds United winger Raphinha, who has been in solid form this season. He is also attracting interest from a few top European clubs as we get closer to the summer transfer window. Both Barcelona and Liverpool are believed to be interested in the Brazil international.
The 25-year-old has scored nine goals this season, three more than any other Leeds player, and provided three assists in the Premier League. Wolves will want to keep Raphinha quiet, as his bursts down the right flank could cause serious havoc.
Wolves 2-0 Leeds United
Even though Leeds United returned to winning ways against Norwich City, getting through Wolves will be a much tougher task for them. Bruno Lage & co. have a mean defence and Leeds have not been all that good going forward this season. Expect Wolves to score two goals without reply and push Leeds further down into the relegation battle.