WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS VS. LIVERPOOL
| Saturday, September 18th |
Premier League | Molineux Stadium
12:30PM GMT/7:30AM EST
Trent Alexander-Arnold is ruled out with the hamstring injury he picked up against Aston Villa before the international break, but Ibrahima Konaté and Darwin Núñez are available for the match against Wolves. This match comes too soon for Thiago, who — like Alexander-Arnold — is running, but not in team training yet.
With Virgil Van Dijk out for this match with an extended ban, head coach Jürgen Klopp is left with some questions in terms of his back line, with both Joël Matip and Jarell Quansah available to pair with Konaté. Given Konaté is coming back from injury, we might well see him play less than a full match, with Matip and Quansah on the pitch at 90’. Joe Gomez is the likely replacement for Alexander-Arnold at right back.
Alexander-Arnold is a massive miss for the Reds, with the vice-captain starting the season strongly and putting in a number of eye-catching attacking performances. Liverpool will need to find a new way to be dangerous at Molineux, as they will be unable to rely on Alexander-Arnold’s precise distribution into the opposition final third. New signings Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister will likely take on the bulk of this mantle, looking to supply Liverpool’s front three — whoever gets the nod! — with chances, as well as taking some themselves.
So, the bad news: Liverpool tend to be bad in 12:30 kick offs, and last season the Reds failed to win a single one of their six early starts (D3 L3) — with five of these away. I’m sorry to include this note for those of us waking up at dumb hours to watch the match. On the other hand, of course, is the fact that last time out Liverpool extended their league unbeaten streak to 15, stretching back to last April (a month after the loss to Wolves), the best active streak. The Reds come into this match looking to keep the momentum going despite the unfavorable kick-off time, and the good news Is that Mohamed Salah is in for a few minor milestones, and we know how he loves those: he could become the first player with goal involvements in 10 consecutive appearances in the Premier League since, uh, Mohamed Salah (August-December 2021, 15); he could also become just the fourth PL player to notch an assist in five consecutive away fixtures (joining Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Deulofeu, and Muzzy Izzet).
Predicted Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Gomez, Matip, Konaté, Robertson; Szoboszlai, Endo, Mac Allister; Salah, Gakpo, Diaz
Wolves are without midfielder Joe Hodge for this meeting, and fellow midfielder Tommy Doyle awaits a late fitness test following a minor knee injury. Tommy Doyle is a big question mark, as the player is an exciting new acquisition in on loan from Manchester City. If fit, this would be Doyle’s debut for Wolves.
Wolves are coming into this match having lost 12 of the last 13 Premier League meetings against Liverpool — but their last win was a home match last February, where they defeated Liverpool 3-0.
Strangely, all of Wolves’ goals this season have been scored from headers, which isn’t a sustained pattern (they only scored with two headers in the entirety of last season). Another pattern has to do with their starting line-up: their first three goals this season were all scored by substitutes, a first in Premier League history per Opta.
Wolves have had an unlucky start to the season, with their record (wins against Everton in the league and Blackpool in the EFL Cup and losses against Brighton, Manchester United, and Crystal Palace) slightly misleading due to strength of opposition and bad luck. Manager Gary O’Neil received an apology phone call from officials after the denial of a clear penalty against Manchester United, which could have seen a 1-1 away draw.
Their last match, against Crystal Palace, is instructive: Wolves maintained 58% possession and generated 12 shots, but only four were on target — and they nonetheless conceded 16 shots to Palace, who put a massive 11 on target (generating 2.63 xG per Wyscout, compared to Wolves’ own 0.54).
Thus far this season, they have conceded 1.96 xG per match (this includes their League Cup slaughtering of Blackpool) and generated 1.66 xG. Though these numbers are largely meaningless with such a small sample size (sorry), they have nonetheless started the season with a worrying pattern of giving up chances, and Liverpool — who have started the season by taking a lot of chances — should hope to cash in here. Though the Reds will have to rotate their back five, the rest of the XI will hope to have enough to make up for any issues.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jürgen Klopp: “Were unlucky obviously now early in the season already with decisions, which happens to all of us but not all these decisions lead directly to a bad result – in their case I think it was like that. We expect a massive fight and that’s what we have to be ready for.”
Gary O’Neil: “Liverpool have been very impressive this season, I think they’ve made a big improvement from last season with their structure. I’ve watched all of their games from this season, and they look a very good side, so it’ll be a tough game for us, of course. It’s going to be a tough test. We’ve got a good game plan in place that allows us to be aggressive when we’re ready to, allows us to have good spells with the ball, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the boys can produce.”
Referee: Michael Oliver Assistants: Stuart Burt, Dan Cook Fourth Official: Tim Robinson VAR: Paul Tierney Assistant VAR: Mark Scholes
If you haven’t done so already, take a moment to sign up for an SB Nation account and join the community at The Liverpool Offside, where we’ll bring you and your fellow Reds fans from around the world full coverage of every Liverpool match from the 2023-24 season in the Premier League, Europa League, and domestic cups along with breaking news, insight and opinion, tactical discussion, and post-match reaction