The international break is over and the Premier League is back. VAVEL analyses Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton ahead of what will be valuable points for both sides and their European ambitions.
League One and back again
On a Sunday afternoon at the Molineux in August 2011, Mick McCarthy's Wolves pulled off a victory over Fulham 2-0 to send them top of the Premier League. Around the same time, Southampton had managed to win their first four opening games of the season, a first in their club's history. The difference was, the Saints were in their second season in League One.
Of course what followed was Wolves being relegated to League One, with Southampton managing back-to-back promotions to the Premier League.
Today, both sides sit in the top half of the top flight. Both clubs may understand and appreciate each other's journeys, but neither side will be showing any mercy on Monday.
Southampton has been in the division since 2012. They know very well what it takes to survive among the billionaire powerhouses that sit near the top, but also how to deal with the up and coming new kids on the block.
The Saints are a club that many teams outside the top six and further down the leagues find inspirational, showing them that Premier League stability can be achieved.
Wolves are not one of those teams, with ambitions and financial clout to exceed the Saints. However, results talk.
Southampton are currently six games unbeaten, drawing one and winning the other five. Wolves on the other hand have only won four of their fixtures so far, drawing one and losing three.
The side from Hampshire have also scored sixteen goals so far, which is double Wolves' tally of eight. The men in old gold do boast a slightly better defensive record, only conceding eight to Southampton's twelve.
Since 1905, the two teams have played each other 67 times in all competitions. Southampton have fared slightly better, winning 27 which gives them a win rate of 40%. Wolves on the other hand have managed 23 wins, giving them a win rate of 34%. There have been 17 draws, which accounts to the other 36% of the fixtures.
Looking at the recent fixtures with both teams in the Premier league gives a slightly different outlook. Wolves have won two out of the four meetings, with Southampton only winning once with the other being a draw. It is fair to say that both teams have had their moments against each other.
Key players to watch for Wolves
The team from the Black Country have shown only flashes of the team that they could potentially be going forward. They have though remained consistently solid at the back if you ignore their result against West Ham.
From a calendar year perspective, Wolves have the cleanest sheets of 2020, which indicates that their man in between the sticks, Rui Patricio, is absolutely invaluable to them. They will be needing a solid performance from the Portuguese international veteran if they hope to get anything from the game.
Wolves will also be hoping to have their captain Conor Coady available to play, with the England international being in self-isolation for the past two weeks. He has been instrumental to their shape and discipline and the Molineux will definitely be a lot quieter without him on the pitch. Wolves will definitely be weaker without him.
In midfield, it could be easier to look for Ruben Neves for a player that could potentially inspire the team to victory, with the wonderkid from Porto's angled passes causing fear to every back-tracking defender that he plays against.
Leander Dendoncker is the very definition of a box-to-box midfielder, often being seen intercepting key passes on the edge of his own box, to the next minute trying to get on the end of a cross in the opposition's box.
He is a key player for them in the middle of the park and will directly influence how well the team plays. He did pick up a slight knock during the break, but should be fit to play.
Any of Wolves' forwards has the potential to do something special, but Pedro Neto is now developing a knack of giving full-backs nightmares on a consistent basis. The 20-year-old was given his international debut during the break, in which he only needed eight minutes to score his first goal. He will be looking to bring his recent success into the game on Monday.
Key players to watch for Southampton
Southampton have four clean sheets to their name this season, with Jannick Vestergaard playing vital part in all of them. He has made the most clearances and won the most aerial battles in the team, even managing to score two goals in the process. The six-foot-five Dane will definitely be looking to add to his tally.
After recovering from his hamstring injury, James Ward-Prowse will be looking to be among the Southampton starting line-up. The Saint's captain has been very influential in the middle of the park, even catching the eye of Gareth Southgate, with his injury coming at an unfortunate time. They will be relying on his set pieces to pierce the strong armor of the Wolves defensive.
Southampton will still be without their top goalscorer Danny Ings, as the England international continues to recover from the operation he had on his knee. The striker is a huge loss, but it did not prevent the men in red and white stripes from putting two past the team in black and white stripes Newcastle United last time out.
With Ings out, the responsibility falls to Theo Walcott and Che Adams to provide the team with goals. Adams has scored three so far and has also managed two assists. Walcott also has two assists to his name, which represents that Southampton still have the firepower to cause Wolves trouble, even without their main man up top.
Southampton are the more in-form team and will be looking for all three points. Even without Ings, they are still a danger going forwards and are particularly deadly from set-pieces. Wolves on the other hand have a very robust defence and will not make it easy for the Saints to score.
Wolves will need their attackers to score more goals. Southampton have scored at least two goals in their last five matches and with Wolves only managing an average of one in each of their games, two goals should be enough to see off the team in old gold. This is 2020 though and anything can happen on what will be a cold, windy night at the Molineux.