When the 2020-2021 season kicked off, Liverpool supporters would have assumed that their team will mount a strong defence of the title and perhaps even defend it and will definitely be in the top four if not top two in the table at the end of the season. After all they had just delivered an emphatic title win after a 30-year gap. Similarly, Wolves’ fans would also have assumed that their team will at least be vying for European football after finishing level on points with Tottenham and three points ahead of Arsenal. Some of these assumptions seem completely unfounded at this juncture with 10 games to go in the season and both these teams underperforming these expectations. Monday night they face each other at the Molineux, in a bid to climb up the points ladder significantly.
Wolves’ performances have been consistently inconsistent this season. Their results list is peppered with their 11 losses and 8 draws so far, punctuated with their 9 wins. They did not win a game between December 21 and February 02 and ended up getting just three points out of a possible 24 in that period. That was followed by an undefeated February, picking up 11 points from a possible 15. They began March with a loss to Manchester City at the Etihad and followed it up with a draw against Aston Villa at Villa Park. This patchy form has left them 12th in the table with 35 points and 10 games to play. Nuno Espirito Santo will hope that they can make these 10 games count and move into the top-half of the table at least.
If the hosts’ season can be called consistently inconsistent, Liverpool’s season is characterized by their sudden implosion in the new year. In 67 days, Liverpool have gone from the top of the table to eighth. They are currently closer to the relegation zone than to the league leaders Manchester City. They are also seven points off the top-four spots at present. Their chances of closing that distance are slim as only three teams have managed to finish in the top-four having won 43 or fewer points with 10 games remaining. The Reds come into this game having won midweek against RB Leipzig in a home game that was played in Hungary. The win has put them through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League and to some fans Champions League qualification through a Champions League title this season seems more achievable than attaining the top-four spots. This is because their league form has completely slumped. And that too especially at home, where they have followed a 68-game unbeaten run with six consecutive defeats. Such league form begs to be turned around but one does not know if Liverpool have the personnel for that turn around and if those personnel have the mental resilience left for it. As Carra has put it, they have gone from “mentality monsters” to “mentality midgets”.
- A lot of teams have had the chance to end their less desirable streaks against the Reds in the last two months. This might be Wolves’ chance. They have lost their last eight Premier League meetings with Liverpool since a 1-0 victory at Anfield in December 2010. This is their second-longest losing run in their league history and Monday night presents an opportunity to end it.
- Liverpool have a great record at the Molineux. They have not lost an away league game against Wolves since August 1981, winning four and drawing three of their seven league trips to Molineux since.
- Wolves are looking to record back-to-back home Premier League wins for only the second time in the last two seasons, winning their final two at home in the 2019-20 season.
- Liverpool have lost nine league games this season so far. They last lost more back in 2015-16 (10). In fact, since the start of February, the Reds have the worst record in the Premier League, picking up just three points (P7 W1 D0 L6), with only West Brom scoring fewer goals (3) than the Reds (4) during this time.
Pedro Neto has scored five and assisted five goals this season so far. However, only three of those goal contributions have come in 2021. Despite this, Neto is the main source of threat for Wolves. His xG90 of 0.18 and xA90 of 0.21 are not earth-shattering by any stretch of imagination, but it is the best that Nuno has in his team. Neto has not scored or assisted a goal in any of his three appearances against the Reds so far and has lost all three. He will hope to end that streak on Monday.
For a team that has scored with only two of last 67 shots from open play, a change in attack is to be expected. With Diogo Jota returning to the Liverpool attack against RB Leipzig, and also providing an assist in the game, Klopp will want to continue with Jota in attack. He has good reason too. With Jota scoring 5 goals in 613 league minutes so far this season, he has shown that he can lead the attack. An xG90 of 0.39 and xA90 of 0.22 is excellent for a player whose injury issues have caused a lot of trouble for Klopp. The German will hope that Diogo is able to continue that goal scoring form on Monday.
For Wolves, Marcal and Daniel Podence are on their way to recovery but Monday’s game might be too early for them. Willian Jose is still looking for his first Wolves goal and might make the bench. The likely lineup for Wolves is likely to be Patricio; Boly Coady, Saiss; Semedo, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Traore, Neto.
For Liverpool, Klopp’s praise for the central defence pairing of Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips could mean that the pair will continue on Monday night. That would allow Fabinho to play in the midfield, which definitely makes Liverpool much better. Roberto Firmino missed the game against Leipzig with an injury and will make way for Jota. The likely lineup for Liverpool is – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Phillips, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Thiago; Mane, Jota, Salah.
While Liverpool’s home form has been extremely terrible recently, their away form has not been as bad. They come into this game with more at stake than their hosts and with more skeptics to prove wrong. Klopp and his team have a chance to arrest their slide down the table and they might just take it on Monday night.
Wolves 1 – 2 Liverpool