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Preview: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Chelsea

Preview: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Chelsea

Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Premier League clash between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Molineux is the venue for only the second-ever Christmas Eve Premier League fixture on Sunday lunchtime, as Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea butt heads in the West Midlands.

Gary O’Neil‘s team were crushed 3-0 by West Ham United in their most recent top-flight affair, while the Blues return to top-flight duty on the back of progressing to the FA Cup semi-finals.

Match preview

Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Gary O'Neil on December 17, 2023© Reuters

Some Wolves fans may have purchased their tickets for last week’s trip to West Ham under the guise of watching a closely-fought top-flight clash, but the dejected travelling supporters had in fact taken front-row seats for the Lucas Paqueta show at the London Stadium.

The brilliant Brazilian became just the second Selecao player to register three assists in one Premier League game – joining Roberto Firmino in that exclusive two-man club – as he set up two first-half efforts for Mohammed Kudus before also teeing up Jarrod Bowen to put the result beyond any doubt.

An erstwhile West Ham man during his playing heyday, O’Neil was left to rue his side’s “disastrous decision-making” as they were caught cold three times for the Irons’ trio of goals and failed to convert 56% possession and 14 shots – one more than the Europa Conference League winners – into anything worthwhile.

A fourth successive away defeat leaves Wolves in 13th place in the table heading into the final batch of pre-Christmas fixtures, and even though results going against them on Saturday could plunge them closer to the demotion zone, they have a 10-point cushion to Luton Town at this juncture.

Amid their perennial problems on the road, Wolves have not lost their bite on Molineux soil, going unbeaten in each of their last six Premier League home games – defeating Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in that time – and the hosts are also on a 15-game scoring streak in front of their own fans.

Chelsea's Ian Maatsen and Armando Broja celebrate after winning the penalty shootout on December 19, 2023© Reuters

Before talk of a revamped European Super League reared its ugly head again, Chelsea – who represent one of several teams to have denounced the project – took another giant leap towards an elusive slice of domestic glory on Tuesday, when a decimated Newcastle made the trip south for the EFL Cup quarter-finals.

Callum Wilson‘s barnstorming solo run and finish would ostensibly be the difference, but Mykhaylo Mudryk capitalised on a blunder from Trippier to force penalties, in which the Newcastle right-back fluffed his lines before Dorde Petrovic palmed Matt Ritchie‘s effort to safety, thus setting up a two-legged semi-final showdown with Middlesbrough.

Still waiting for his inaugural team honour in English football, Mauricio Pochettino is helping to rebuild the walls of Stamford Bridge – where Chelsea also strolled past Sheffield United 2-0 last weekend – and the 10th-placed Blues lie smack-bang in the middle of the rankings as a result.

However, after claiming three successive away wins between October and November, the visitors have now been beaten in each of their last three top-flight contests on the road to Newcastle United, Manchester United and Everton, but not since December 2000 (a streak of five) have they lost four in a row away from home.

The Blues ended that miserable sequence with a Christmas Day draw away to Ipswich Town that year, but April’s trip to Molineux was not very merry for the returning Frank Lampard, as Chelsea succumbed to a 1-0 defeat to leave them winless on Wolves’ ground since 2019.

Wolverhampton Wanderers Premier League form:

Chelsea Premier League form:

Chelsea form (all competitions):

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Team News

Chelsea's Enzo Fernandez celebrates scoring their third goal on December 3, 2023© Reuters

O’Neil delivered quite the festive present to Wolves supporters in his pre-game press conference, as he revealed that assister-in-chief Pedro Neto (thigh) had enjoyed a full week of team training and should be able to play a part on Sunday, which would be his first appearance since October 28.

Despite spending nearly two months out, Neto still leads the Premier League’s assists charts with seven – level with Kieran Trippier and Mohamed Salah – while Jose Sa (shoulder) and Nelson Semedo (illness) ought to be involved too.

However, Joe Hodge is still recovering from a shoulder operation and remains absent for the time being, while Jonny has been banished from the first-team picture until the end of January at least due to a serious training-ground incident.

In contrast, Chelsea are still feeling the winter blues when it comes to injuries, as all of Reece James (hamstring), Wesley Fofana (knee), Carney Chukwuemeka (knee), Trevoh Chalobah (thigh), Marc Cucurella (ankle), Robert Sanchez (knee), Lesley Ugochukwu (unspecified), Romeo Lavia (ankle) and Ben Chilwell (thigh) are still missing.

Enzo Fernandez also lasted just 32 minutes of the win over Newcastle, but Pochettino confirmed that the Argentine was simply feeling under the weather, while Levi Colwill (fatigue) and Noni Madueke (fitness) may both be in contention to feature this weekend too.

Tuesday’s EFL Cup showdown also saw Christopher Nkunku make his long-awaited competitive Chelsea debut, and a Premier League baptism now awaits the Frenchman, but Pochettino may still deem it too soon to throw him into the first XI.

Wolverhampton Wanderers possible starting lineup:
Sa; Kilman, Toti, Dawson; Semedo, Lemina, Gomes, Bellegarde, Ait-Nouri; Cunha, Hwang

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Petrovic; Gusto, Silva, Badiashile, Colwill; Caicedo, Fernandez; Sterling, Gallagher, Palmer; Jackson

SM words green background

We say: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-2 Chelsea

Wolves are seldom kept at bay at Molineux, and O’Neil’s men ought to feel confident of prolonging their scoring streak against a Chelsea side who just cannot bolt the back door shut away from Stamford Bridge.

However, the hosts’ performance against West Ham was highly alarming, and even with Chelsea battling midweek fatigue, the Blues’ recent injection of confidence and added threat of Nkunku should be enough to propel them to all three points.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data

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