Wolves entertain out-of-sorts Bournemouth on Wednesday evening fresh from a successful trip to the capital and a 2-0 victory over another side battling for survival in West Ham.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men outclassed the Hammers in every department on Sunday and were well worth the 3 points, with a slight tactical switch to play 3 central midfielders in the form of Moutinho, Neves and Dendonker proving a smart move by ensuring the away side’s dominance in the middle of the park.
Once again, Adama Traore’s introduction from the bench upped the tempo of the game and the wide man played a big part in Wolves’ late double, setting one goal up and causing chaos as usual for the opposition defence.
Wanderers now sit in 6th position and will be confident with their remaining fixtures of finishing above the likes of Spurs, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace – potentially even gatecrashing a Champions League spot with 5th place earning a route through to that competition unless Manchester City’s European ban is overturned.
Heading into this match, I can’t see past anything other than a home win for Nuno and his team considering their own prowess (3 wins in their last 5) and Bournemouth’s current slump.
The Cherries look bereft of ideas going forward and couple that with a defence leaking goals in the second half of the season and it spells just one thing if they carry on their current trajectory – relegation. Eddie Howe’s had plenty of praise heaped on him over the years for guiding Bournemouth up the divisions and to Premier League security (albeit with a healthy budget) but the 42 year-old looks at a lost currently as to how to turn his team’s fortunes around.
Saturday evening defeat to Crystal Palace on prime-time TV was a particularly humbling one and the biggest cause for concern will be the lack of goal threat, the team recording an Expected Goals (xG) of a tiny 0.36 in the match as they struggled to break down the Palace rear-guard.
David Brooks’s first start in over a year will give Howe hope moving forward but he needs to be careful not to overburden the young Welshman with too much pressure and responsibility in the early stage of his resumption in the game.
For my betbuilder here, I’m going for Wolves to win; under 4 goals in the match and Bournemouth over 1 card – priced at 11/5 with Bet365.
With Raul Jimenez picking up from where he left off in front of goal – being supporting by some wonderful technical players deployed behind him – and Bournemouth looking blunt in attack, the Wolves win has to form part of this same game treble.
In the reverse fixture Wolves recorded a 2-1 win at Dean Court and racked up 18 shots, double that of the Cherries with Bournemouth’s only route to goal coming from a set-piece.
Wolves home games this season have averaged 2.53 goals per match with the under 4 goals coming home to roost in 13 out of 15 games at Molineux, so I’m happy to add the goals element as the second part of the bet builder.
I’m backing the final part – over 1 Bournemouth card – based on the away club’s recent disciplinary record against sides outside the top 5. In their last 4 matches against those sides they’ve had 3 cards in each, with 2 or more landing in 9 out of 11 fixtures.
The likes of Jefferson Lerma, Adam Smith and Callum Wilson are prolific foulers so it’s little surprise to see the bookings mount up.
Add in the Cherries’ awful form and frustration out on the pitch is inevitably growing.
Team that together with the record cards record and a Wolves team full of great dribblers, there may be a fair few late challenges from an increasingly desperate team in a perilous position.
Michael Oliver is the man in the middle for this and, despite not being the most card referee in the division, he’s unlikely to stand for persistent fouling from Bournemouth, particularly if they maintain their recent record of giving free-kicks away.
The 11/5 price looks of decent interest in a game I’m expecting the home side to see out with their superior quality.