Wolverhampton Wanderers vs West Ham United: Tactical preview and predicted line-ups
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Leander Dendoncker of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United at Molineux on December 04, 2019 in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

International breaks always bring a time of contemplation and reflection for club sides, with managers able to iron out some of the kinks that may have arisen throughout this season's hectic fixture schedule. 

For Nuno Espirito Santo and Wolverhampton Wanderers, it has been an usually long time since they crossed the white lines for a Premier League game, with their last match taking place nearly three weeks ago.

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West Ham United have had nearly a week less to recuperate than their opponents, but they will be glad to have seen the end of that difficult run of fixtures before the break. David Moyes and his men will definitely fancy their chances against a Wolves side with nothing else to play for this season.

VAVEL UK predicts the line-ups for Monday evening's league clash, with Wolves poised to dent West Ham's hopes of European football.

  • The Opposition

The Hammers are currently sitting just outside the UEFA Champions League qualification spots, knowing that a win will put them back into fourth place. Moyes will be well aware that every point is now vital in keeping up with the 'big boys', especially with a seat at the head table on offer.

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West Ham have alternated between a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-2-1 formation this season, but will most likely go with four at the back. The Irons are still without Darren Randolph, Angelo Ogbonna and Andriy Yarmolenko ahead of the fixture, but may welcome back Arthur Masuaku back to the squad, with the defender having been sidelined since December 5.

Vladimir Coufal has made the most tackles for the Hammers this season and will be vital in keeping Wolves' wingers at bay. Moyes will also opt to start the centre-back partnership of Craig Dawson and Issa Diop once again, with Aaron Cresswell to get the nod at left-back. Łukasz Fabiański should retain his place between the sticks as well. 

The central midfield duo of Declan Rice and Tomáš Souček have been a major part of West Ham's fantastic season so far and if they are given the freedom to operate, they will quite simply run the game. Souček is the top goalscorer for the Irons so far,  with Rice having made the most successful passes.

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The three in front will most likely be Jarrod Bowen, Jesse Lingard and Saïd Benrahma, with Lingard most likely to start down the middle. The on-loan 28-year-old will be eager to show Gareth Southgate that he deserves a place in England's squad this summer, so will be raring to get at the Wolves defence. Moyes may instead decide to put in Pablo Fornals, with competition for places very high for the Hammers in this area.

To spearhead the attack, West Ham will go with Michail Antonio, with the 31-year-old eager to catch up with his teammate Souček in the goal scoring charts.

  • Tactics and Formation

Other than avoiding relegation, Wolves do not have much else to play for this season. It has not been as exciting and adventurous as in previous seasons and the curtain call could not come any sooner for fans.

However, in the reverse fixture between the two sides earlier in the season, the Hammers came away with a 4-0 victory In what was a crushing defeat for Nuno and his men. If there was one reason for Wolves to turn up on Monday evening, it would be for some revenge.

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The rumours are aloft that Wolves intend to transition into a back four over the summer, but it would be very surprising to see them move away from their trusted 3-4-3 formation at this moment in time.

Having been left out of the Portugal squad for the recent games for precautionary reasons, Rui Patrício shoul return to his place in goal for the West Midlanders. The 33-year-old has been sensational for his side and will be vital in securing any points on the evening.

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Joao Moutinho had the opposite problem to his compatriot Patrício and picked up a problem on international duty and will most likely be unavailable. This leaves a hole in the centre of midfield next to Rúben Neves. Nuno will most likely go with Belgian international Leander Dendoncker to reinforce that midfield to prevent Rice and Souček calling the shots. 

However, another Portuguese player on loan for Wolves has been impressing whilst on Under-21s duty. That player is 21-year-old Vitinha, who has done a very good job of gathering admirers for his recent performance. It would be a very adventurous move by Nuno to start him next to Neves, but this has not been something that he has really done all season. The youngster therefore, will most likely have to contend with a place on the bench.

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With Dendoncker in midfield, the back three should consist of Willy Boly, captain Conor Coady and Romain Saïss. With the potential of shifting into a back four next season, the competition for places will be very high, so expect each of them to try and raise their game to avoid being dropped. Nuno does like to throw in Maximilian Kilman from time to time, so the 23-year-old may get a nod in place of one of the three.

At wing-backs, we should see Nélson Semedo and Jonny bagging another appearance each. Both will be instrumental to how successful Wolves will be, with both their defensive and attacking presences vital to how their side functions. A lapse in either one could be very problematic for Nuno.

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Ahead of them on the wings should see Pedro Neto and Adama Traoré reprise their roles, most likely being adopted again as inverted wingers. Quite simply if neither turn up on Monday, Wolves will be completely ineffective going forwards. One man rumoured to be making a comeback is Daniel Podence, with the 25-year-old reportedly back in training, but it may be too early for the passionate Portuguese.

The men from Molineux are still without their talisman Raúl Jiménez, with the Mexican still not able to take part in any physical contact with regards to football. Nuno will look to give January loan signing Willian José the responsibility once again to lead his side's attack. The Brazilian is still yet to score for Wolves, which is becoming very worrying.

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With José struggling to find the net, Wolves may decide to give their record signing Fábio Silva another opportunity to lead the line. However again, Nuno will most likely pick the more tried and tested path, so will more likely just bring the 18-year-old on towards the latter stages of the second half like normal. 

  • Predicted line-ups

Wolves' line-up then should be as follows, perhaps with the odd tweak in personnel by Nuno:

Wolves (3-4-3): Patrício; Boly, Saïss, Coady; Semedo, Jonny, Dendoncker, Neves; Neto, Traoré, José.

West Ham (4-2-3-1): Fabiański; Coufal, Cresswell, Dawson, Diop; Rice, Souček; Lingard, Bowen, Benrahma; Antonio.

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