Away from the bright lights of the title race – and the race for the Champions League places – Wolves have been making a big impression upon the Premier League and it’s no surprise that they are fancied to beat Newcastle in tonight’s Premier League game.
Before the season many observers had said Nuno’s side were one of the best-promoted teams to come up in recent Premier League history and that has been borne out by the results over half a season, with Wolves having several high-profile scalps. They have beaten Spurs at Wembley, taken points from Manchester City (Molineux), Arsenal (Emirates) and United (Old Trafford) and knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup.
They are seventh – 12 points behind Arsenal but four ahead of Bournemouth – and that would be a phenomenal result given where the club had once fallen.
For fans of Wolves, that is a far rosier picture than Newcastle, who are struggling once again with Mike Ashley’s mind seemingly permanently elsewhere. Rafa Benitez, as was the case last season is the difference between them staying up and going down, with the Magpies in 17th at the time of writing.
A silver lining for Newcastle fans is that they have exactly the same amount of points now as they did last season, when they ended up 10th (albeit just 9 points clear of the drop zone by the end) with many of the season’s most difficult fixtures out of the way – especially at St James’ Park – although this on paper is the second hardest trip they have left (Arsenal host them on the 29th March).
They also arrive in some of the best form they’ve shown all season. That might not mean much given that they are a side currently sat in 17th but they notched a confidence-boosting win against Cardiff and then followed that up with a shock win against City and a narrow defeat to Newcastle, when they held out until the 83rd minute before a late goal from Heung-Min Son.
Players like Martin Dubravka, Fabian Schar, Jamal Lascelles, DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Richie and Salomon Rondon have all stepped up recently and the Magpies will be travelling there in much greater heart than they would have at the beginning of the month.
They have gained much of their success by following a tried and tested formula of putting many men behind the ball and breaking when they can, especially against higher-ranking opposition. They will aim to frustrate Joao Moutinho, Raul Jimenez, and if fit, Diogo Jota, and it is a method that has nearly worked on many occasions this season.
They have lost five away games this season, but all have come at the top 6 and they’re unbeaten facing teams eight or below in the table. Four of those five away defeats have also come by a single goal.
Wolves have improved their record at Molineux recently, with back to back wins against Leicester and West Ham when they scored a combined seven goals, improving what had been a rather spotty home record. Goals seem to be flowing more of late, although the absence of Diogo Jota would be s significant impediment to that.
This is a hard game to call, with Wolves having the confidence and quality to win, but facing an obdurate test against a side who will sit deep and play on the counter. Watford, Huddersfield and Crystal Palace all used those tactics to good effect with the trip achieving 2-0 victories, so the 4/6 on the hosts can be swerved.
Wolves v Newcastle United
20:00 Sky Sports Premier League / Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Ultra HD
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches, from last 10 years)
DEC 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Newcastle 1-2 Wolves
FEB 2017 CHAMPIONSHIP Wolves 0-1 Newcastle
SEP 2016 EFL CUP Newcastle 2-0 Wolves
SEP 2016 CHAMPIONSHIP Newcastle 0-2 Wolves
FEB 2012 PREMIER LEAGUE Newcastle 2-2 Wolves
OCT 2011 PREMIER LEAGUE Wolves 1-2 Newcastle
AUG 2010 PREMIER LEAGUE Wolves 1-1 Newcastle
MAY 2004 PREMIERSHIP Newcastle 1-1 Wolves
NOV 2003 PREMIERSHIP Wolves 1-1 Newcastle
JAN 2003 FA CUP Wolves 3-2 Newcastle
It took an injury time goal for Wolves to win over a 10 man outfit at St James’ Park and the draw might be the best way to play what looks a trappy game.
RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK DRAW 5 pts at 11/4 with starsports.bet
PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 239.39 points
(excluding Premier League ante-post and Six Nations ante-post)