Wolverhampton Wanderers host Southampton in the fifth round of the FA Cup with both sides looking to pursue a return to the acclaimed form that has earned high praise across the last few campaigns.
The Wanderers have feebly earned a solitary victory in the league across their last ten outings and have seen significant struggles to exhibit any offensive potency.
Southampton have endured a torrid time of late, with recent results including losses to Aston Villa and Newcastle United, as well as their mortifying capitulation as they lost 9-0 to Manchester United – equalling their defeat of the same scoreline to Leicester City last season.
The teams played out a 1-1 draw earlier on this season in the Premier League, at a time when the two sides had enjoyed a terrific start to the campaign and were sitting in fifth and nineth place respectively.
Tactics and Formation:
Wolves have reverted back to a more traditional ‘4-3-3’ formation for their last two fixtures, with the ‘3-4-3’ recently proving largely ineffective in an offensive sense.
By switching back to a four-man defence, a sense of stability has been instilled as Wolves have now only tasted defeat once across their last four matches in the Premier League.
Additionally, successful outings against Crystal Palace and Chorley FC in the last two rounds of the FA Cup have aided The Wanderers pursuit for a richer vein of form.
The Saints evident defensive woes will certainly be an area that Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo will be searching to exploit as he attempts to emulate the clubs FA Cup triumph of 1960 – the last time they prevailed in the distinguished competition.
For Ralph Hasenhuttl’s decimated squad, there is a potential for positivity as the return of Kyle Walker-Peters will provide valuable protection and solidity down the right flank – an area exploited detrimentally by Newcastle last time out.
Wolves (4-3-3): Ruddy; Semedo, Coady, Saiss, Ait-Nouri; Gibbs-White, Neves, Vitinha; Traore, Silva, Neto.
Southampton (4-2-2-2): Forster; Walker-Peters, Stephens, Salisu, Bertrand; Ward-Prowse, Romeu; Redmond, Djenepo; Ings, N’Lundulu.
The two Premier League teams will be desperate to overcome respective periods of turmoil, with each having been stricken by injuries and misfortune that has led to a significant plummet in league form.
It will be equally important to progress to the quarter finals of the FA Cup, and to earn a psychological advantage ahead of the second encounter in the space of four days for the sides as they meet again in the league on Sunday.
There have been no clean sheets for either team across the last four meetings, and it might well be that this run continues on Thursday – neither side has displayed an inkling of a resolute defensive mentality in recent times.
Ultimately, the result determined at the end of the game will likely be down to whether either side can get an early grasp of proceedings and establish control in key areas.