Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Burnley Preview: Wolves looking to feast upon Clarets' concerns
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Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Burnley Preview: Wolves looking to feast upon Clarets' concerns

Burnley are currently stranded in the wilderness of the relegation zone.

Chris Lincoln

Wolves have started their survival campaign in a relatively strong fashion, although they are yet to truly strike fear into their prey after returning to the Premier League for the first time since 2012. However, Nuno Espirito Santo's side are yet to be defeated on home territory and will be looking to sustain that presence against a struggling Burnley side.

In contrast, the Clarets are already beginning to sense danger and will be looking to ensure they do not become isolated from the rest of the pack after securing just one point in their opening four games. Sean Dyche's side have been stalked by rival attackers who have netted nine times already this season against a defence that proved a tough pack to hunt down during the last campaign.

The predators becomes the prey

Wolves have been forced to battle for their points thus far, just as the animal they share a name would be used to in the wild. The muzzle was released in the final moments against West Ham as the maturing and lightning quick Adama Traore feasted on a stumbling Hammers defence to secure their first win of the season before the international break.

A defeat to Leicester City proved that the Premier League was not going to be easy terrain for Wolves to negotiate but they did earn respectable draws against Everton and Manchester City before and after the 2-0 loss.

In contrast, Burnley's legacy in the top tier of English football, manufactured by an impressive seventh place finish last season, is already becoming endangered. A draw on the opening day of the season preceded three successive defeats and an abrupt isolation from the Europa League.

Who is available for each pack?

A sustained attack on both fronts have left Burnley's squad savaged going into this contest. Nick Pope remains sidelined with Steven Defour and Robbie Brady, whilst Ben Gibson is also expected to be missing from Molineux.

However, Stephen Ward and Johann Berg Gudmundsson could be available for the visitors as they look to battle their way out of the relegation wilderness.

In contrast, the hosts have very few concerns with winger Ivan Cavaleiro the only definite absentee. Raul Jimenez picked up a muscle injury on a goalscoring adventure with Mexico but is expected to be fit for the West Midlands club.

Options from the bench could be important for both sides who were unable to be separated in their previous two meetings during the 2015-16 Championship campaign.

One side of the battlefield could be critical

Perhaps the key question for Nuno concerns whether to start Traore for his full debut. The winger has been particularly effective in three substitute appearances on a flank used 42% of the time by the Wolves pack.

A keen rivalry is expected to lure the attraction of a voracious crowd, hungry for an early afternoon blizzard of action. Burnley have also utilised that side of the pitch for 42% of their attacks and they will have to choose between the creativity of Gudmundsson or hunger of teenage hotshot Dwight McNeil as their starting left midfielder.

There will also be a battle to become the alpha team from set-pieces as both sides protect their dens from danger. Wolves have scored two of their four goals from such territory but also conceded two from five. Similarly, Burnley have netted twice from these positions but have failed to sustain their aerial ability across the pitch, losing more duels on average than their hosts.

Burnley must stick together

Wolves are known as jealous creatures but Burnley could be the side trapped within that emotion if they lose on Sunday. The Clarets must not be consumed by the need for three points and focus on key traits of the wolf to see them through - aggression, protection and hunting in packs.

Failure to show this resilience and sustainability across the 90 minutes could see the magnificient creature of last season subjected to a long and lonely period in the relegation wildnerness of the unforgiving Premier League habitat.