Bottom-half battlers Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crystal Palace will both seek an immediate return to winning ways in the Premier League when they square off in Tuesday’s contest at Molineux.
The hosts fell to a 2-1 defeat to Leicester City on Saturday afternoon, despite going a goal up at the King Power, while Roy Hodgson’s side played out a drab goalless draw with Everton.
It is rare to see Wolves number one Jose Sa being the architect of his team’s downfall, and the Portuguese goalkeeper watched on with a smile on his face as Matheus Cunha put the visitors ahead against Leicester, but there was little for Sa to feel happy about come the full-time whistle.
With eight minutes to play in the first half, Sa caught Jamie Vardy inside the area, and Kelechi Iheanacho coolly tucked home the resulting penalty before right-back Timothy Castagne produced a striker’s finish in the second half to turn the tie on its head for Leicester.
Thanks to West Ham United’s demolition of Bournemouth on Sunday afternoon, Wolves will enter the midweek round of fixtures having slipped below the Hammers into 14th place in the table, behind David Moyes’s men on goal difference and six points clear of the bottom three with six games remaining.
Nevertheless, a blunt Loeptegui warned his Wolves players to avoid “dangerous” thoughts about being close to securing Premier League safety after Saturday’s failure, which ended the hosts’ three-game unbeaten run in April, albeit while extending their scoring streak to seven matches – a marked improvement from their shot-shy days of the first half of the season.
Molineux has also been a happy hunting ground for Wolves in recent months, as Lopetegui’s side boast five wins from seven Premier League home games in 2023 – including each of their last two – and every triumph in that quintet has seen Wolves keep a clean sheet.
Crystal Palace’s explosive attacking performances under Hodgson were always going to peter out at one stage, but it was not for the want of trying against the 10 men of Everton, who left Selhurst Park on Saturday with a creditable point to their name.
Despite boasting a numerical advantage for the final 10 minutes after Mason Holgate was made to walk for two bookable offences, Palace’s efforts to outdo Jordan Pickford were fruitless, while Sam Johnstone also had to come up with some crucial contributions at the other end of the field.
The Eagles’ 100% winning record during Hodgson’s homecoming may now be over, but they are still safely entrenched in 12th place in the table – nine points clear of the bottom three with six games left to go – so another season of top-flight football should be secured with minimal difficulty.
Following victories on Leeds United and Southampton’s turf, Palace are now out to make it three Premier League wins away from home for the first time since May 2019, and recent history suggests that the visitors’ trip to the West Midlands will be a worthwhile one.
Indeed, the Eagles have come out on top in each of their last four meetings with Wolves, who fell to a 2-1 loss to Palace at Selhurst Park earlier in the season, while Wilfried Zaha and Jean-Philippe Mateta were on target in a 2-0 triumph at Molineux for the Eagles 11 months ago.
Not long after setting up Cunha’s opener on Saturday, Mario Lemina was withdrawn at half time due to a hamstring injury, but the Gabon international seemingly laid any fears to rest when he was seen walking normally after the game.
Nevertheless, Lemina will need careful assessment over the next 48 hours, and Lopetegui continues to work without Sasa Kalajdzic and Chiquinho (both knee), while Boubacar Traore is still lacking match fitness and may only make the bench at best.
Should Lemina not be risked from the first whistle, Ruben Neves should immediately return to the fold in the middle of the park, while Diego Costa and Pablo Sarabia failed to make much of an impact at the King Power and could find their places under threat from Daniel Podence and Adama Traore.
As for Crystal Palace, Hodgson is hopeful that Zaha (groin) and Nathaniel Clyne (knee) will be back on the training pitches at some point this week, but Tuesday’s game is expected to come too soon for both men to make their comebacks.
Meanwhile, the luckless Nathan Ferguson has now picked up a fresh muscular problem – a serious one at that – and will remain sidelined for some time, but Hodgson does not have any fresh worries to factor in from the stalemate with Everton.
Vicente Guaita was back on the bench at the weekend, but Johnstone may have done enough to retain possession of the gloves on Tuesday, while Mateta and Will Hughes are options to freshen up the XI if tired legs come into play.
Wolverhampton Wanderers possible starting lineup:
Sa; Semedo, Kilman, Dawson, Bueno; Traore, Gomes, Neves, Nunes; Cunha, Podence
Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Johnstone; Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; Schlupp, Doucoure, Eze; Olise, Mateta, Ayew