Wolverhampton Wanderers will be up against Manchester City on Monday night at Molineux, in their first Premier League home match of the season. Following midweek disappointment in the Carabao Cup second round against Stoke City, Wolves will be keen to take all three points from a team they famously completed a double over last season, and build on their excellent opening weekend start against Sheffield United.
After rotating the squad for the Stoke match, Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo is likely to go back to his strongest XI, in an attacking setup built to take advantage of Man. City's current weaknesses. Sergio Aguero is still unavailable with a knee injury, meaning their goal threat will be reduced with the less experienced Gabriel Jesus up front, and Aymeric Laporte is also unavailable, having been ruled out following a positive Covid-19 test. This could give a debut opportunity to £41million man Nathan Ake. Bernardo Silva is unavailable due to an injury sustained on international duty with Portugal. Ilkay Gundogan has tested positive for Covid-19, and will miss this fixture in addition to matches against Bournemouth (Carabao Cup third round, Thursday) and Leicester City (Premier League, Sunday). This could mean a start for Phil Foden. As a result of Laporte's absence and the weakened City attack, Wolves will likely attack down the middle and go forward in numbers from the start.
Adama Traore will likely be deployed at right wingback to counter the blistering pace of Raheem Sterling, with Marcal on the left following an impressive away debut, and Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence playing as narrow forwards either side of Raul Jimenez following the departures of both Diogo Jota (to Liverpool, £41million) and Leonardo Campana (to FC Famalicao, loan). Goalkeeper Rui Patricio is almost certain to feature, as are an unchanged back 3 of Romain Saiss, Conor Coady and Willy Boly, while the passing range of Ruben Neves, the tireless running of Leander Dendoncker and the physicality of both will likely be the defining features of the Wolves midfield.
New signing Ki-Jana Hoever will not be eligible to play against City, but will be eligible in time for Wolves' trip to London to face West Ham on September 27.
Wolves: 3-4-3: Patricio; Boly, Coady, Saiss; Traore, Neves, Dendoncker, Marcal; Neto, Jimenez, Podence.
City: 4-3-3: Ederson; Walker, Garcia, Ake, Mendy; De Bruyne, Rodri, Foden; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling.
City manager Pep Guardiola will be looking to avoid a fourth straight defeat against Wolves, and frequent tactical tinkering and experimentation in his never-ending search for perfection makes any predicted City lineup, especially at the start of a season, an educated guess at best.
Both made it through to the quarterfinals of their respective European competitions in August, and both were knocked out, Wolves by Sevilla in the UEFA Europa League and City by Lyon in the UEFA Champions League. City haven't played since then, while Wolves have played twice, beating Sheffield 2-0 in the Premier League and losing 1-0 to Stoke in the Carabao Cup.
Ones to watch
Adama Traore. His battle with Raheem Sterling could prove pivotal in this match - Traore played deep to mark Sterling in the first meeting of the two sides in 2019/20, and did so effectively, keeping Sterling quiet before shifting to a forward role to score the two winning goals late on. With three goals and an assist to his name from the two Wolves vs City matches last season, Traore will surely be keen to add to his tally, as the standout player on City's bogey team.
Kevin De Bruyne. The PFA Player of the Year needs no introduction, after an unbelievably good season in 2019/20. Always on hand to unlock defences with his incisive passing, if City score then it's likely that De Bruyne will have played a part in the buildup.
Wolves and City have faced each other six times in the Fosun era: four times in the league (a 1-1 draw and a 3-0 City win in the 2018/19 season followed by 2-0 and 3-2 Wolves wins in the 2019/20 season), and two goalless draws settled by penalties (City won 4-1 on penalties in the fourth round of the 2017/18 Carabao Cup; Wolves won 3-2 on penalties in the final of the 2019 Premier League Asia Trophy in Shanghai).
The most entertaining recent meeting from a neutral standpoint is the match on December 27 2019, on a dramatic night at Molineux. City went down to 10 men early on when a reckless high challenge outside the box by goalkeeper Ederson left Jota on the floor, with Aguero subbed off for backup keeper Claudio Bravo. Riyad Mahrez then went down easily when tackled in the box by Dendoncker, with Patricio saving Sterling's resultant penalty. VAR then ordered a retake of the penalty after spotting encroachment on the edge of the box by Coady. Patricio saved the second spot-kick, but spilled the rebound, leaving Sterling with an easy tap-in.
Shortly after half time, a lapse in defensive concentration allowed a beautiful through ball from De Bruyne to reach Sterling, who doubled City's advantage. Only five minutes later, Traore started the Wolves comeback with a low shot from outside the box beating Bravo and going in off the post. Traore then body-slammed Benjamin Mendy near the byline to win the ball back, sending a low cross to Jimenez, who levelled the score. In the 89th minute, Matt Doherty cut infield on a long dribble, playing a smart one-two with Jimenez as he carved through the City defence before sending a left-footed shot under Bravo to secure the win in front of an anarchic South Bank.
Where to watch on TV
The match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event on Monday September 21, kicking off at 20:15.
Updated 2020-09-21 12:31.