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A disappointing end to the season for Wolves saw them win just three of their final eight outings across all competitions.
However, their four defeats over this period did come against Arsenal, Sheffield Utd, Chelsea and Sevilla, while all but one of those losses came on the road or on neutral territory.
It isn’t as though their standards completely tailed off then and we’d expect them to pick themselves up after a month off.
Their 2-0 win away at Sheffield Utd on the opening day of this term certainly suggests they’ve done just that. Meanwhile, back at Molineux, they’ve lost just one of nine outings since going down narrowly to Liverpool in January.
That spell saw them register eight clean sheets, including six win to nils, as the likes of Espanyol, Norwich, Bournemouth, Everton, Palace and Olympiakos were all overcome.
Nuno Espirito Santo will surely ring the changes to his starting line-up with Man City to face on Monday, but the Portuguese head coach has enough depth in his squad to freshen things up.
John Ruddy, Diogo Jota, Ruben Neves, Vitinha, Ruben Vinagre, Oskar Burr and record signing Fabio Silva all started last Monday’s game on the bench and can each expect some minutes here, while they’ll be taking on a Stoke side that could have started the season better.
Wolves To Win To Nil
The Potters have so far played out two goalless stalemates with Blackpool in the League Cup and then Millwall in the Championship.
Michael O’Neill’s side have lacked a cutting thrust in the final third and they’re now a poor W3-D5-L9 on their travels since the former Northern Ireland boss took the reins in late November.
They failed to score in two-thirds of those defeats, so the win to nil appears promising here. Indeed, home or away, Stoke have failed to register in eight of nine defeats going back to late December.
The visitors are also reduced in defence. Former England goalkeeper Jack Butland will expect to start having been benched last time out, but experienced centre-back Ryan Shawcross may find this game comes too soon for him after considerable injury problems over the past 12 months that limited him to just five appearances last term.
Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland side were hardly known for pulsating, high-octane affairs. That was understandable given the limited quality at his disposal, but he’ll no doubt take a similar approach against a Wolves side that have finished seventh in the top flight in consecutive campaigns.
We wouldn’t expect too much attacking ambition from Stoke, but should they fall behind as seems inevitable, it’s hard to see them mustering a fightback.