West Ham vs Wolves: Predicted starting line-up
Wolves' traditional pre-match huddle, before the last league outing against Manchester City | Photo by Nick Potts - Pool/Getty Images.

In the third weekend of the new Premier League season, Wolverhampton Wanderers face West Ham United at the London Stadium, in what will be a must-win game if Wolves' ambitions of breaking into the top six are to be realised.

With West Ham weakened by Covid-19 and already underperforming in the league, Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo is likely to start his strongest available side, in an attempt to dominate the game and take away the three points, as he did the last time the two teams met in June.

In that fixture, Raul Jimenez and Pedro Neto found the back of the net assisted by Adama Traore and Matt Doherty, with Rui Patricio keeping a clean sheet.

The opposition

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West Ham have got off to a rocky start in the league, scoring a solitary goal across their defeats to Newcastle United and Arsenal, conceding twice in each. However, strong performances in the cup have made up for this, seeing off Charlton Athletic 3-0 in the second round and putting five past Hull City in the third, on Tuesday.

In terms of formation, West Ham are fairly settled in a 4-2-3-1, using it three times this season, though an experiment with a 5-4-1 against Arsenal saw them manage 14 shots to Arsenal's 7.

Despite the loss, this is highly promising against one of the better sides in the league and, aware of Wolves' struggles against teams who play defensively, it would make sense for David Moyes to use this setup to shut Wolves out.

Moyes, along with midfielder Josh Cullen and defender Issa Diop, will not be at the game, having tested positive for Covid-19, and will be managing the game from home while self-isolating.

Striker Sebastien Haller, who scored twice against Hull, is doubtful after picking up a hamstring issue during the game and leaving the pitch in obvious discomfort after the final whistle. Captain Mark Noble has recovered from a toe injury that saw him miss West Ham's last two matches and has been in training ahead of this weekend's match.

Tactics and formation

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Patricio is almost certain to start in goal, and a settled and unchanged back 3 of Willy Boly, Conor Coady and Romain Saiss are a safe bet as well.

New signing Nelson Semedo is likely to start at right wing-back, balancing the team by allowing Traore to move forward and start in his natural position on the right-wing.

Following a calf injury which forced him off the pitch in the opening ten minutes against City on Monday, Marcal is unavailable, and it is uncertain whether he'll be available for next week's match at home to Fulham. As a result, Ruben Vinagre will take his place at left wing-back.

A central pairing of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho is likely, picking up balls in the middle of the park and feeding them out wide with pinpoint accuracy to a very attacking wing-back pairing.

Jimenez will almost certainly start centrally, with Daniel Podence to the left of him, and Neto on the substitutes bench.

Alternatively, a front three of Neto, Jimenez and Podence is a possibility, with Traore ready to come off the bench for the final 20-30 minutes and run at a tired West Ham defence.

Predicted line-up: 3-4-3:

Patricio; Boly, Coady, Saiss; Semedo, Neves, Moutinho, Vinagre; Traore, Jimenez, Podence.

Prediction

The attacking nature of the two best available wing-backs should mean an emphasis on playing high up the pitch, with the same high defensive line seen in the previous meeting of the two sides. Vinagre will likely overlap on the left, looking for the cross, while Podence drifts into the inside-left channel.

The new right flank partnership between Semedo and Traore will be fascinating to watch, with Jimenez waiting centrally to use his strength in the air to attack their crosses. Due to the strength out wide, Neves and Moutinho will likely sit a little deeper in front of the back 3, pinning down a West Ham side who will likely be using a low block anyway.

Scoring opportunities for West Ham should be limited as a result, and Wolves should come away with the points.

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