Preview: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Arsenal - prediction, team news, lineups

sportsmole.co.uk, 2 July 2020, 08:45
Preview: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Arsenal - prediction, team news, lineups

Arsenal begin a run of challenging fixtures with a trip to Molineux as they prepare to take on fellow European hopefuls Wolverhampton Wanderers in Saturday's Premier League showdown.

The two clubs both enjoyed victories and clean sheets in their most recent fixtures, with Wolves overcoming Aston Villa 1-0 last weekend while Arsenal inflicted a 4-0 thrashing on Norwich City in midweek.

Match preview

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Even though Wolves have had relatively friendly fixtures to contend with in the past few weeks, Nuno Espirito Santo 's side have shown no signs of complacency as they maintained their 100% record since the restart over Villa last time out.

The European hopefuls were certainly made to work for their victory against Dean Smith 's side, but a second-half Leander Dendoncker winner was enough to take their total points tally to 52 for the season - keeping their aspirations of qualifying for the Champions League well and truly alive.

Santo's men have now enjoyed three victories and three clean sheets over West Ham United, Bournemouth and Villa following the resumption of the Premier League, and Wolves are now only two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea following their dramatic defeat to West Ham on Wednesday.

Of course, fifth may be enough to guarantee a Champions League spot amid Manchester City's financial fair play troubles, and Wolves are now only behind Manchester United on goal difference with six games left to play.

The visit of Arsenal represents the most challenging task that Santo's men have faced since the English top flight was given the green light to return, although the Wolves faithful will have fond memories of their 3-1 victory over Arsenal at Molineux last season.

Man United and Chelsea are aiming to record straightforward victories over Bournemouth and Watford respectively this weekend, but should the English giants both slip up, Wolves could enter the final five games of the season in the top four with a win over Arsenal.

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Meanwhile, Arsenal have finally started to string a set of wins together as they recorded their third victory on the bounce in all competitions against bottom-of-the-table Norwich at the Emirates.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is now neck-and-neck with Jamie Vardy in the race for the golden boot as the Gunners captain took his tally to 19 for the season against the Canaries, with strikes from Granit Xhaka and debutant Cedric Soares capping off a morale-boosting win for Mikel Arteta 's men.

That victory in midweek has temporarily moved the Gunners above arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur into seventh, although Jose Mourinho 's side have a game in hand against Sheffield United on Thursday evening - and a point for Spurs would be enough to see Arsenal drop down to eighth prior to the weekend's fixtures.

Things looked bleak for the Gunners following defeats against Manchester City and Brighton & Hove Albion in their first games back, but Arteta's men are firmly in the argument for a European berth with 46 points from 32 matches this term.

However, the trip to the West Midlands is followed up by crunch matches against Leicester City, Spurs and Liverpool in July - meaning Arsenal can ill-afford to drop too many points if they want to secure a spot in international competition for next season.

The North London outfit can also go down the route of an FA Cup triumph for European football following their quarter-final victory over Sheffield United - but Arteta must now contend with another reunion with Pep Guardiola as Arsenal face Man City at Wembley in the last four.

While Arteta's side are not renowned for their away form, the Gunners have only suffered defeat twice in their last 15 games in all competitions on the road - but they have not beaten Wolves in three attempts since Santo's side made their return to the big time.

Wolverhampton Wanderers Premier League form: WWDWWW

Wolverhampton Wanderers form (all competitions): WDDWWW

Arsenal Premier League form: WWLLWW

Arsenal form (all competitions): WLLWWW

Team News

© Reuters

Having had a full week off since their victory at Villa Park, Santo has a fully-fit selection of players from which to call upon for the visit of Arsenal.

The only dilemma facing the Portuguese manager is whether to start or bench the tricky Adama Traore - who was replaced by Dendoncker last weekend, but it is hard to imagine the Belgian midfielder dropping out of the side following his winner against Villa.

Meanwhile, Arsenal's injury list currently includes Bernd Leno, Gabriel Martinelli, Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers - all of whom are confirmed absentees.

Lucas Torreira has not featured since fracturing his ankle in the FA Cup win over Portsmouth, but the midfielder has a chance of being involved for this one, albeit probably not from the first whistle.

Mesut Ozil has not played a single minute of football since play resumed and missed out the win over Norwich with a back problem, so it remains to be seen whether the German playmaker will make the cut for Saturday.

Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka are in contention to return to the first XI having been benched against Norwich - while Cedric's strike in the victory over the Canaries could see him earn a start over Hector Bellerin.

Wolverhampton Wanderers possible starting lineup:

Patricio; Coady, Boly, Saiss; Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Castro; Jota, Jimenez

Arsenal possible starting lineup:

Martinez; Luiz, Mustafi, Holding; Cedric, Xhaka, Ceballos, Saka; Pepe, Nketiah, Aubameyang

We say: Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-2 Arsenal

The clash between Wolves and Arsenal promises to be a fascinating tie between two sides vying for a spot in Europe next season. Both clubs are heading into the tie in a good run of form and will believe they are equally capable of coming away with all three points, but we cannot pick a winner for this one and are backing a high-scoring draw at Molineux.

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