#1 Inside both camps
After all of their injured or suspended players returned to the squad for the loss against Manchester United in midweek, Wolves will be without just two members of their side for Sunday’s trip to the capital. Joao Gomes and Pablo Sarabia both came off the bench in the second period and impacted the game, as did Rayan Ait-Nouri – who played his second game after injury – and young striker Nathan Fraser, who is currently the only true ‘number nine’ in the squad after the transfer window closed on Thursday. O’Neil will once again have to do without Hee Chan Hwang and Boubacar Traore, with the pair almost certainly not going to be in the squad for the weekend, as they represent their countries in the Asian Cup and Africa Cup of Nations quarter- endings.
Chelsea will be aiming to bounce back at the first attempt from their defeat to Liverpool on Tuesday as they look to extend their unbeaten record against Wolves at Stamford Bridge to 11 matches, having not lost to the Old Gold at Stamford Bridge since March 1979. However , Mauricio Pochettino will be without several key players, including defending Wesley Fofana who is out for the season with an ACL injury, while Reece James (thigh), Marc Cucurella (ankle), Romeo Lavia (thigh), Robert Sanchez (knee), Trevoh Chalobah (thigh), Lesley Ugochukwu (thigh) and Levi Colwill are all unlikely to feature. However, the Blues could see forward Nicolas Jackson back in action after Senegal dropped out of AFCON in the competition’s last 16 to Ivory Cost earlier this week.
#2 Coming into it
Wolves’ incredible run of form which started with the Christmas Eve win against Chelsea at Molineux finally came to an end on Thursday night in the most dramatic of circumstances. After going seven games without defeat, O’Neil’s men looked to have continued that tally when they fought back against Manchester United after going behind at 2-0 and then 3-1 to score an added time equalizer through Neto. But it wasn’t too be for the Old Gold, who also saw their unbeaten run at Molineux also come to an end after nine matches with the late, late 4-3 loss to the Red Devils.
Wolves’ last three | L 3-4 Manchester United (H) – W 2-0 West Bromwich Albion (A) – D 0-0 Brighton & Hove Albion (A)
Similarly to the inconsistent season Wolves’ Thursday night opponents had been experiencing in 2023/24, Chelsea are also looking at putting a run of games together in their hunt to get back into the European spots. Having finished an underwhelming 12th in the last campaign, the Blues were hoping for more this year, but have so far flattered to deceive. However, a run of three Premier League wins in a row, as well as booking a place in the Carabao Cup final with a dominant showing at home to Middlesbrough in the second leg of the semis, would have given Pochettino belief that they are on the way to turning their season on its head – but that was before Tuesday’s heavy 4-1 defeat at Anfield.
Chelsea’s last three | L 1-4 Liverpool (A) – D 0-0 Aston Villa (H) – W 6-1 Middlesbrough (H)
#3 Since last time
Wolves 2 Chelsea 1 | 24th December 2023
Wolves served up the perfect Christmas present for their supporters with three points on Christmas Eve last time out against Chelsea, as Mario Lemina and Matt Doherty sank the Blues at Molineux. The Old Gold turned up the heat after the break as Lemina headed in Pablo Sarabia’s corner to give his side the lead was richly deserved before Doherty came off the bench to stroke home a second. Christopher Nkunku headed in a late consolation for the visitors, but Wolves were good value for their win.
Wolves’ XI | Sa, Semedo, Kilman, Dawson, Toti, Ait-Nouri, Lemina, J. Gomes, Sarabia, Hwang, Cunha.
The team O’Neil played against Chelsea at Molineux is expected to look pretty similar on Sunday, with all but Hwang available due to his Asian Cup commitments with South Korea. With a large squad at his disposal, but still nursing several injuries, Pochettino could make several changes from the Chelsea side which stepped out at Molineux in December, but one player who definitely won’t be available is Armando Broja, after the striker signed on loan for Fulham on deadline day, moving down the road from Stamford Bridge for the remainder of the season.
Chelsea XI | Petrovic, Gusto, Disasi, Silva, Colwill, Ugochukwu, Gallagher, Palmer, Sterling, Jackson, Broja.
#4 In the media
Following the Old Gold’s dramatic late defeat to Manchester United on Thursday night, in a game that was full of twists and turns, The Athletic’s Wolves correspondent Steve Madeley believes that the contest shows O’Neil’s team are a mix of ‘fun and flaws’ – and impossible not to root for’.
“Despite much of it being bad, the overall impression left by a crazy Molineux evening ended up being good. Go figure… Wolves conceded poor goals, failed to make the most of promising positions and at times were lacking the center-forward that they spent much of yesterday’s frantic transfer deadline day trying to sign. They were naive, sloppy and any sense of composure seemed to drain from their collective consciousness on occasions.
“But they displayed guts, spirit and resilience to twice climb the mountains they had created for themselves. This Wolves side never knows when they are beaten and after three seasons of grim, attritional clawing for survival, this new-look outfit is a refreshing antidote to the depressing times of recent seasons for supporters who were craving a shot of excitement and togetherness.”
BBC Sport reporter Gary Rose believes Chelsea were well beaten on Tuesday night against Liverpool, and didn’t do enough to deserve more from the game, despite contentious penalty decisions going against the Blues.
“Chelsea can have few complaints about coming out the losing side in this one, as only the woodwork denied Liverpool – and in particular Darwin Nunez – scoring even more. However, they will likely feel a couple of penalty decisions went against them that may have made for a closer game.
“The first incident, in the first half, saw Conor Gallagher go down under close attention from Virgil van Dijk. The second, which came after the break, they had arguably a stronger case for this time Van Dijk did appear to catch Christopher Nkunku. Regardless, they did not do enough in the final third as they finished with just four shots on goal, compared to 28 for a dominant Liverpool.”