Newcastle United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers: Tactical preview and predicted line-ups
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25: Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle United is challenged by Ruben Neves of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United at Molineux on October 25, 2020 in Wolverhampton, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Newcastle United/Getty Images)

Saturday night television faces stiff competition for their audience, as the Premier League clash between Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers kicks off at 20:00.

VAVEL UK predicts the line-ups for the league fixture, with both sides aiming for nothing less than all three points at St James' Park.

  • The Opposition

Newcastle have only won two of their last 14 games in the league, a run that has seen them slip down to 17th, just three points from safety. What is more worrying for the Magpies, is that the gap was ten points only three weeks ago.

This has coincided with the remarkable turnaround in form from Fulham, with Scott Parker and his men launching a late charge in an attempt to leapfrog Newcastle in the table.

This renders Magpie's boss Steve Bruce in a bit of a quandary going into this game. Wolves have only conceded three goals in their last six in the league, with Nuno Espirito Santo and his men hitting a rich vein of form themselves in recent weeks. 

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Bruce will be well aware that every point counts in this relegation battle, but with Fulham hot on their heels, one point on Saturday may not be enough. This means that he will need to come out and attack Wolves, rather than simply park the bus, especially with the side playing at home.

Newcastle have settled on a 4-3-3 formation of late, which aims to get the best out of arguably their most dangerous attacking player in Allan Saint-Maximin. The Frenchman has not been able to feature as much as Bruce would have liked this season, but now looks as if he is back to being in peak condition.

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The 23-year-old was able to bag a goal in their last game, so will definitely be a threat to Wolves. Talking of goals, Newcastle will still be without their leading goalscorer this season Callum Wilson. The 28-year-old has ten goals already to his name this season, whose presence up top on Saturday will surely be missed.

This means that either Dwight Gayle or Joelinton will get the nod in place of Wilson, with Gayle most likely to be the preferred option. It will then be Miguel Almirón who will complete the front three, with the Paraguayan no doubt eager to disrupt Wolves' passing game.

At the opposite end, the fixture should see a return to action of goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka, with the Slovak deemed ready to return between the sticks. In front of him should be Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark and Isaac Hayden, whose task will be to give the Magpies some security down the middle. Joe Willock should also get another appearance under his belt in midfield.

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It will be interesting to see if Bruce sticks with Jamal Lewis and Emil Krafth as his full backs, who have not been in great form of late. With Wolves' main attacking threat being down their wings, the full-backs will need to be switched on from start to finish. 

This problem for Newcastle could see the return of Federico Fernández, with the Argentine close to being back to full fitness. Saturday's fixture could see Bruce bringing in Fernández ahead of schedule, to help contain Wolves' wingers.

Jonjo Shelvey has not been in great form for Newcastle this season and this could be the moment in which Bruce decides to drop the 28-year-old. This could present an opportunity for Ryan Fraser, who has not been putting in the level of performances that the fan base were expecting. 

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This would though suggest that Bruce would have to change his formation to cater for Fraser, which would mean a 4-2-3-1 formation. This would be risky move though, so it is more likely that Shelvey will again get the nod.

  • Tactics and formation

Wolves will be full of confidence heading into this fixture, with the side on a fantastic run of ten points from their last twelve. Nuno has reverted back to a more reliable 3-4-3 formation of late, so it is expected that the side will stick with the same shape. 

This would mean another appearance for Rui Patricio in goal, with the Portuguese being ever so reliable between the posts. It should then be captain Conor Coady in front of Patricio, operating in his usual sweeper role. 

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Alongside the skipper should be Romain Saiss and Leander Dendoncker, with the Belgian filling in for Willy Boly again, who is still out injured. Nuno does though like to mix things up from time to time, so Maximilian Kilman could easily slot into that back three come Saturday.

The back three will need to prevent whoever plays up top for Newcastle from getting on the ball, as their aim will be to bring Almirón and Saint-Maximin into the game. If Wolves can cut out the supply line, the responsibilities will then fall to Wolves' wing-backs.

This means that Nelson Semedo and Jonny Castro Otto, will be responsible for nullifying Newcastle's wingers, with the Portuguese and the Spaniard both in fine form going into the clash. Jonny in particular has been outstanding since returning from injury, which has coincided with Wolves' recent good form.

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In the middle will most likely see the Portuguese duo of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho. Both midfielders have been very effective of late, with Neves making the fourth most interceptions in the league this season. Combine that with his very versatile passing range and you can clearly see why Neves is already an icon around Wolverhampton.

Again, Nuno may be tempted to tweak the side slightly, with both Vitinha and Owen Otasowie both potential options to start in the middle. Vitinha is only on loan this season, so Nuno may decide to give the 21-year-old a run-out. 

Wolves' wingers on their day, can be completely unplayable. Pedro Neto and Adama Traore will be instrumental in their side's hopes of coming away from St James' with a win. Neto is a constant thorn in any full-back's side and will continually ask questions of their ability to defend.

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Traore can go for long periods of the game completely unnoticed. Then out of nowhere, a burst of pace accelerates him past multiple defenders and allows him to conjure up an opportunity. This leads to defenders having to double, or sometimes even triple-up on him, which then leads to space for his teammates to operate in.

A masterstroke from Nuno has been in switching the sides that they play on, which sees both of them now playing on the wing that matches their weakest side. Rather than now seeing them run down the outside and out to the corners, Neto and Traore are now turning inside and unleashing shots more frequently. 

This switch to adopting inverted wingers has created so many more opportunities for Wolves, who are a side that have struggled to score throughout the season.

This can be shown clearly with Willian Jose, who will no doubt start up top for Wolves. The on-loan Brazilian is yet to score for the Wanderers, with his side desperate to replace the goals that Raúl Jiménez used to provide. 

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The 29-year-old though, has been involved with large amounts of the link-up plays that have then led to opportunities for his teammates. He will know though all too well that he needs to get his name on the score sheet sooner rather than later.

This may lead to Nuno giving Fabio Silva a starting place in the line-up instead of Jose. The 18-year-old has returned to his more back-up role for the club, but has shown that he is capable of leading the line for Wolves and could well be given the nod on Saturday.

  • Predicted line-ups

So if both managers stick to the formations that they have been using of late, the line-ups for both sides should be as follows:

Newcastle (4-3-3): Dúbravka; Kraft, Lewis, Lascelles; Clark, Hayden, Willock, Shelvey; Almirón , Saint-Maximan, Gayle

Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio; Coady, Dendoncker, Saiss; Semedo, Jonny, Neves, Moutinho; Neto, Traore, Jose