With his long beard and shaven pate, Wolves’ head coach Nuno Espírito Santo almost takes on the look of a monk. His kindly countenance and calm manner only add to this image.
With his high-energy, animated, heart-on-the-sleeve approach to life, his counterpart at Liverpool, Jürgen Klopp, forms quite a contrast.
Despite these apparent differences, though, they are similar when it comes to steely determination, desire to succeed and, of course, teams that play very good football.
With his team the top of the Premier League, Klopp has plenty to be animated about. They have yet to lose in the Premier League this season, winning 14 of their 17 matches. Including their last six, in which they have kept four clean sheets. They have kept seven clean sheets in their last 12 league games.
After taking just one point in six league games between October 20 and November 30, Wolves have now won their last three league matches – 2-1 at home to Chelsea, 2-1 at Newcastle and, on Saturday, 2-0 at home to Bournemouth, which was their first clean sheet in the league since October 6th. The ship has been steadied and Wolves sit seventh in the table as the Liverpool match approaches.
Both sides are comfortable with the styles and systems under which they play. Liverpool, who are playing with a lot of confidence, play a pressing game that is not as intense as it was when Klopp first arrived at Anfield, at least not for the forwards, who have been given more licence to be ready to break in the final-third of the pitch when the ball is overturned.
The strengthening of Liverpool’s defence has been a feature of the season. Alisson is a top-class keeper, Van Dijk is arguably the league’s best central defender, Joe Gomez (currently sidelined) looks a super prospect and Andy Robertson’s energy, desire, pace, poise and positional sense have rightly been drawing plaudits.
Wolves are stylish and technically excellent and have adapted well to their coach’s philosophy. Raul Jiminez has five goals and six assists in the Premier League this season – an impressive haul.
After the Bournemouth win, Nuno said: “ I truly believe you have to take things as they come, win or lose, and keep believing in how you want to do things and how you want to play. They were difficult moments but we came through and sometimes those moments make you think more and find solutions.
“The character and acceptance of things from the players was amazing and things like that can make you stronger, so I am very pleased.”
Belief from ‘the monk’ remains undiminished and his side will go into Friday’s game in a confident mood – as, of course, will Liverpool.
Wolves – Diogo Jota is doubtful following a hamstring injury picked up against Bournemouth. His absence would be a blow for Wolves. He has scored two goals in his last three matches.
Liverpool – They have recently suffered a number of injuries to defenders. Joel Matip will be out for another month with a broken collar-bone. Joe Gomez (leg fracture) will be missing for another month. Trent Alexander-Arnold (foot injury) will miss the Wolves game but may soon be available again. James Milner should be available again after picking up a minor muscle injury against Roma in the Champions League. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin (knee) is a long-term absentee,
This is a game that should be easy on the eye. Both sides are in good form. Liverpool, however, look like they are the only side that can mount a serious title-challenge to Man City.
Liverpool’s attack has goals written all over it so it hard to see Wolves keeping a clean sheet. By the same token, Wolves are creative and have scored in six of their last seven matches.
Both Teams To Score: 20/21
Liverpool to win 3-1: 11/1
First Scorer Sadio Mané: 9/2 – It is a ‘Double The Odds On First Goalscorer Bets’ match with us (usual t&c)
Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 goals in match: 13/10