It's our final game ahead of the winter break; in-form Wolverhampton Wanderers making the trip to the Brentford Community Stadium this afternoon. Bruno Lage's men have their eyes set on European qualification this term while a fourth home league win in six could send us into the break inside the top-half. Here's all the build-up to our visit from Wolves.
Wolves have just quietly been going about their business under new boss Bruno Lage, heading to TW8 this afternoon unbeaten in five in all competitions. That run of form, which has seen away wins over Brighton and Manchester United as well as a draw at Chelsea, has shot Wolves up to eighth in the table, well in touch of the European places.
It's not been spectacular by any stretch. Wolves are the third lowest scorers in the Premier League, netting just 17 goals in their 20 matches but it is at the other end where they are proving themselves amongst the league's best. Only Manchester City (13) have conceded fewer than Lage's men (15), with City the only side to score a goal in a home game against Wolves since 6 November.
Wolves have suffered just seven defeats in all competitions this season but only three of those have come since our 2-0 win at Molineux back in September. The men from Molineux have picked up more points away from home this season (17) than they have at home (14).
Raul Jiminez and Hee-Chan Hwang lead their scoring charts with four each, Conor Coady (above) and Romain Saiss the only others in old gold to have scored more than once this season.
Thomas Frank confirmed there's no change in our injury situation so David Raya, Julian Jeanvier (both knee), Tariqe Fosu, Zanka, Charlie Goode, (all hamstring), Frank Onyeka (international duty), and Josh Dasilva (hip) will be the absentees.
For Wolves, Ruben Neves has returned to training following Covid-19 while Jonny is also closing in on a return. New signing Chiquinho could be involved but Pedro Neto, Yerson Mosquera, Willy Boly and Hwang Hee-chan remain out with their long-term issues. Romain Saiss is at the Africa Cup of Nations; Rayan Ait-Nouri looks set to hold his place at left-back with Marcal nursing a knock.
Writing for Hot Off The Press, The Athletic's Tim Spiers says: "He has played 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 in every game this season. I think, in the long-term, he probably does want to move to a back four and play a high line, but for now, he is playing to the squad’s strengths. A 3-4-3 is the way they like to go the majority of the time, with two forwards either side of Jimenez, a couple of attacking wing-backs and then Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves (pictured above) tend to dictate play in the middle. They have got this phenomenal defensive record, so will certainly be hard to beat."
- Brentford could become just the second promoted side to complete the Premier League double over Wolverhampton Wanderers, after Birmingham City in 2009/10. But Wolves have lost just one of their last nine Premier League away matches against promoted sides (W5 D3).
- Brentford are looking to secure the league double over Wolves for the first time since 2015/16, though this is just the third different campaign in which they’ve met since then.
- Wolves have only conceded one goal in open play in their last nine Premier League matches, a Divock Origi winner for Liverpool in December. The other two goals they’ve conceded in that time have been a Raheem Sterling penalty for Manchester City and a James Ward-Prowse free-kick for Southampton.
- Adama Traore scored his first Premier League goal of the season in the 90th minute of Wolves’ 3-1 win over Southampton in their last match. The Spaniard has scored the most goals in Premier League history without ever scoring in the first half (eight goals), and only Chris Eagles (4/7, 57 per cent) has scored a higher percentage of his goals (5+) in the 90th minute than Traore (4/8, 50 per cent).
After a slow start, which saw four losses in his first five Premier League games, Bruno Lage is really starting to make his mark in Wolverhampton.
The 45-year-old had a short-lived playing career in his native Portugal before going into youth coaching with his hometown club Vitória de Setúbal in 1997. Between 2004 and 2012 he coached every level of Youth Team at Benfica before joining Carlos Carvalhal at Sheffield Wednesday and then Swansea City as Assistant Manager. Lage returned to Benfica as manager of their reserve team in July 2018, taking over the main job the following January. During his short tenure as coach, he won the 2018/19 league title and the 2019 Super Cup, picking up the Primeira Liga and Portuguese FA Coach of the Year prizes at the end of that campaign. After a strong start to 2019/20, which included 16 straight league wins between September and January, a run of just two wins in 13 saw Lage resign in June 2020 as Benfica failed to retain their league title.
THE OPPOSITION VIEW
Speaking to wolves.co.uk, Bruno Lage said: "It’s going to be a hard game, so we’ll prepare in the best way because Brentford are a strong team to play against, especially at home. If you notice, every time a team goes there, they play well at home.
“We can say that they are going to be one of our toughest games because it’s the next game. It’s important and it’s difficult because it’s a hard place to play. The same way as when the opponents come to play against us at home, they understand that it’s a hard place to play.
“They are a strong team, the way they play, the way they press, and we need to go there with the mentality and the personality to play our game and to win the game.”
LAST TIME OUT
Referee: Peter Bankes
Assistants: Neil Davies and James Mainwaring
Fourth official: Martin Atkinson
VAR: Lee Mason
Assistant VAR: Darren Cann
Wolverhampton Wanderers 21/22
201 fouls - 12th in Premier League
33 yellow cards - 14th in Premier League
1 red card - Sixth in Premier League
All adult supporters (18+) must fill in a Covid-19 Self Declaration form before coming tomorrow and be able to show proof of an NHS COVID Pass or negative test result within the 48 hours up to kick-off.
A limited number of half season car parking passes are now available at the Old Citroen site on Capital Interchange Way
Today's game will be shown around the world through the Premier League's broadcast partners. Click here to see if it is on where you are
The only way for supporters in the UK to follow all the action is through live Bees Player commentary with Jonathan Douglas and Karleigh Osborne joining Mark Burridge.