Wolverhampton Wanderers slipped to another Premier League defeat over the weekend, this time to Arsenal, yet the tie ended up being closer than many predicted.
The Gunners took a 2-0 lead after just 13 minutes, and it looked as though Gary O’Neil’s men were on the brink of a collapse, yet they hung in and Matheus Cunha gave them a glimmer of hope with just a few minutes remaining.
The Old Gold couldn’t level things, however, and it means they now occupy 13th spot in the table having lost three of their previous four top-flight matches.
O’Neil has done a decent job, especially arriving without time for much preparation, and he has the chance to make amends for the last two matches as Wolves welcome Burnley to Molineux on Tuesday evening.
The Clarets recorded their biggest win of the season on Saturday as they demolished Sheffield United 5-0, and they could give Wolves a decent match, especially as a win would lift them from the relegation zone.
O’Neil will have a few key men back for the tie having missed the Arsenal match due to suspension, so here is their predicted XI ahead of the clash…
GK – Jose Sa
Sa went off injured against the Gunners after just 23 minutes, and he was replaced by Daniel Bentley, who kept a clean sheet during his time on the pitch.
The Portuguese ‘keeper should be available for Burnley according to O’Neil, who said: “He was struggling with moving a little bit, struggling to kick, so we could possibly have left him on, but we felt where he was, we didn’t need him taking goal kicks as that could have caused us a problem, so it was better to get him off, get him some treatment and we’ve got a big game on Tuesday and I anticipate he’ll be fine for.”
CB – Craig Dawson
The former West Ham United defender returned from suspension to play against Arsenal and had a decent game, winning 50% of his total duels while losing possession just six times across 90 minutes, and he will start against Burnley tomorrow.
Wolves could sign a “monster” £25m Dawson upgrade
This £25m “monster” could be the perfect replacement for Craig Dawson at Wolves.
CB – Max Kilman
The captain has yet to miss a Premier League tie this season and while he was a bit sloppy with the ball against the North Londoners, losing possession on 13 occasions, he will have the chance to move on quickly by starring against Burnley.
CB – Toti Gomes
Buoyed by his recent debut for Portugal, the 24-year-old is emerging as a mainstay under O’Neil, featuring in 11 league matches so far and even chipping in with an assist.
He will once again play in a three-man defence alongside Kilman and Dawson as they look to keep just their second top-flight clean sheet this season.
RWB – Nelson Semedo
The Portuguese defender hasn’t quite been at the races this season as he has lost possession 14.8 times on average per game in the league, along with being dribbled past 0.5 times per match.
Having played in every encounter so far this term, it is unlikely O’Neil will drop him for the tie against Burnley.
LWB – Hugo Bueno
Rayan Ait-Nouri missed the Arsenal tie due to injury and it looks as though he will be unavailable for the Burnley clash too, opening the door for Bueno to keep his space in the left-back wing role.
The youngster did look a threat going forward, making one key pass and creating a big chance against Mikel Arteta’s men, yet he won just seven of his 16 ground duels contested, and he will have to improve defensively for future matches.
CM – Jean-Ricner Bellegarde
The 25-year-old has started just five league ties so far this season, but he has been involved in the previous four games in a row and the Frenchman has provided a decent attacking threat from the centre of the midfield, scoring once along with creating one big chance and averaging 0.8 key passes per game.
He will be unleashed once again vs Burnley tomorrow evening.
CM – Mario Lemina
Lemina picked up his fifth booking of the season against Fulham and subsequently missed the defeat to the Gunners over the weekend. O’Neil certainly missed his presence in the centre of the midfield.
The £45k-per-week “influence” – as hailed by former Wolves player Andy Thompson last season – will return to the starting XI in place of Tommy Doyle, who will drop to the bench after making just his second league start on the weekend.
CM – Joao Gomes
Like Lemina, Gomes also picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign against the Cottagers and was forced to miss the weekend tie.
It was evident that O’Neil missed his presence in the heart of the midfield, and he will come back into the starting XI in place of Boubacar Traore, despite his decent showing against the Emirates outfit on Saturday.
ST – Matheus Cunha
The Brazilian scored his fourth league goal of the current season in the dying minutes against the Gunners and this should give him plenty of confidence about scoring against Burnley, who have conceded 32 goals – the second-worst total in the top flight.
Cunha ranks third across the squad for goals and assists in the league this season, along with ranking first for shots on target per game, and he could pose a dangerous threat tomorrow evening.
ST – Hee-Chan Hwang
The South Korean forward looks a man reborn under O’Neil, particularly following a season in which he found the back of the net only three times in the Premier League during 2022/23.
He has already surpassed that total and is currently sitting on seven top flight goals and two assists, while the 27-year-old succeeds with 1.6 successful dribbles per game and has created three big chances for his teammates.
He is now an undisputed starter for the former Bournemouth manager and if he carries on this excellent form, Wolves should have no problem with seeing off Burnley to claiming their first league win since a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
Predicted Wolves starting XI vs Burnley – Sa, Dawson, Kilman, Toti, Semedo, Bueno, Gomes, Lemina, Bellegarde, Hwang, Cunha.