West Ham United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers Preview: Both teams seek a win ahead of a crucial run in
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Diogo Jota (R) of Wolverhampton Wanderers is challenged by Ryan Fredericks during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United at Molineux on December 04, 2019 in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Opportunity knocks for West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers, who find themselves at opposite ends of the table following the returning to Premier League action.

West Ham will be looking to pick up wins sooner rather than later to avoid an unenviable relegation battle.  With a mere nine games left to play, the need for points cannot be understated. 

Even more so considering after playing Wolves The Hammers face 'London Derbies' against both Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea

In Wolves' case, they find themselves looking upwards as the prospect of European football, and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League remain very realistic. 

They have an important run of games where three wins out of three are achievable, (West Ham, AFC Bournemouth & Aston Villa) ahead of two critical games against Arsenal and Sheffield United.

Time for the Hammers to step up to the mark

When the Premier League was halted it was a time of reflection, having endured a difficult run prior to lockdown they were still able to pick up a victory in their final home game, a 3-1 win versus Southampton, their first win in the EPL since New Years Day. 

The preceding winless drought magnified how underwhelming the season had been for them, a splurge in transfer activity last summer with the arrivals of Sébastien Haller and Pablo Fornals were a statement of intent, as well as a symbol of optimism for West Ham fans.

After a strong start, the season slowly unfolded, eventually marked by the dismissal of widely respected manager Manuel Pellegrini, whose defeat to Wolves in the reverse fixture was one of many which ultimately led to the departure.

Alarmingly since his successor David Moyes took hold of the reins, West Ham have only won two games this year.

For all of his shortcomings this term, much of West Ham's survival hopes rest on their French striker Haller. Despite only scoring seven goals in the 2019/20 season, he remains a formidable opponent on his day. 

His ability to compliment West Ham's other attacking forces, while also scoring a few for himself, underlines his importance for the West London side.

If the Frenchman can use his imposing stature to isolate the comparably diminutive Conor Coady, it will allow West Ham to build their attacks off of him.

Will some long overdue respite benefit Wolves?

The main question being asked of Wolves ahead of this season was how they were going to balance both their Europa League and Premier League commitments.

Initially it was being answered with a sense of struggle and uncertainty. The Midlands side lost their opening Europa League game, as well as not winning a Premier League game until the end of September.

Fortunately for Wolves, the win seemed to propel them onto greater things. Progression into the last 16 of the Europa League, whilst matching the pace of the top four, has kept them in contention for European football since December.

On the whole they have played the balancing act finely so far, albeit back to back 0-0 draws versus Brighton and Hove Albion and Olympiakos before the break could have been evidence of fatigue finally setting in. 

One player who may have welcomed the break is Adama Traoré. The physical forward had been battling a persistent shoulder problem during 2020.

A fully fit Traoré has the explosive ability to cause nightmares for any defence, his average of 5.2 dribbles per game is the highest in the Premier League and only third behind Neymar and Lionel Messi in Europe. There is a small sliver of hope for Moyes as he has had three months to devise a plan to combat the Spaniard.

Team News

West Ham's only injury doubt is Angelo Ogbonna, the former Italian international has had an ongoing knee problem and has a fifty-fifty chance of featuring.

As for Wolves, manager Nuno Espírito Santo has a fully fit squad to choose from ahead of the return. The introduction of the five substitution rule will offer some hope to some of Wolves' fringe players as Santo's tendency is to seldom rotate. 

Form (Premier League)

West Ham United - DLLWL

Wolverhampton Wanderers - DDWWD

Last Meeting

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 West Ham United (Leander Dendoncker 23', Patrick Cutrone 86') - 04/12/2019

Predicted Starting XI

West Ham United (4-4-2) - Fabianski, Ngakia, Diop, Balbuena, Cresswell, Bowen, Noble (C), Rice, Fornals, Haller, Antonio 

Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-4-3) - Patrício, Boly, Coady, Saïss, Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny, Traoré, Jimenez, Jota

Where to watch it?

Sky Sports Main Event - 17:30 BST - 20/06/2020