It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the glamour of Wednesday night’s tie with Barcelona at the Emirates, a clash of perhaps the two purest footballing teamsin Europe, the apprentice against the master, if you will. It is made easier when the only fixture that stands between now and then is a home match against the side with the worst away record in the division – four points and nine goals in twelve matches.
But as ever in football, it is not that simple. Wolves have been poor for the vast majority of the season, hence why they sit level on points with West Ham at the basement. But their problem is that they cannot beat the teams around them – when up for the massive games, they’ve generally delivered.
Wolves have seven wins to their name this season, all against teams in the top 11. In fact, the only teams in the top seven they haven’t defeated are Arsenal and Spurs. And for those with short memories, had Fabianski not pulled off a string of superb saves at Molineux, they may have added us to a list of scalps that includes Chelsea, United, City and Liverpool.
And while their away form is woeful – one win and one draw, consider who those were against – 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, and a 1-0 victory at Anfield. The table points to today’s fixture being a walkover, but the type of season Wolves are having suggests otherwise.
Team news is good – Song and Djourou are both fit, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see the latter’s knee protected, while Cesc and Van Persie return from their rests illnesses that kept them out of the midweek internationals. Otherwise,, I expect a full strength team – Barcelona are four days away and that fixture should not have any bearing on today’s match – with the Manchester derby coming up at lunchtime we must take advantage of whoever slips up.
A victory today would allow us to cast last week aside as a freakish blip, focus on the fact we’re only four points (or less, if they don’t beat City) behind United, and then move on to Barcelona. Anything else could see the gap at the top rise, and invite accusations that the collapse at Newcastle has broken the team’s spirit as draws at Birmingham did in previous seasons, albeit under different circumstances. It is a massive game, make no mistake about it.
Elsewhere, the fitness of the squad continues to improve – Vermaelen in only a few weeks away, and Nasri even less. By the end of February we might have close to a fully fit squad again. There you go, how’s that for a jinx….
Prediction for today? 2-1 win, and a tense one. I don’t care as long as we get three points.
Enjoy the game.