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wolves 1000x500When we travelled to Molineux last season to play Wolves, it was our first game that had come without a Thursday night game previously in the Europa League, but now, a year on, it’s Wolves who are currently juggling the European competition with Premier League football.

Much has been said about how our pre-season this year has been much more like a pre-season and the news from within has suggested that we are much better prepared than we were a year ago for the Premier League challenge ahead.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game, right back Matt Lowton said: “It’s difficult with the Europa League, which we experienced last year. It definitely takes something out of you, the travelling and the games. You can’t quite train as hard as you’d like in between and do the things we’ve been able to do this year without the Europa League.”

He added: “We don’t want another start to the season like we had last year. It wasn’t good enough, we all know that. We turned it around after Christmas and the way we finished last year is the way we wanted to start this time. We had a good pre-season with a lot of hard work and a lot of good work, which set out our stall for the start of the season and we’ve gone straight in there on the front foot.”

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It’s difficult to determine as yet just which teams might be set for a good season and which might be struggling in the relegation battle, but so far we haven’t started too badly. In horrendous conditions two weeks ago we finally overcame Southampton to win 3-0 and despite the defeat last week at Arsenal, it wasn’t a bad performance at all with a lot of positives giving us some real hope for the season ahead.

Those two results mean we’ve scored in both of our first two games of the season. That’s something we haven’t done in the Premier League before and it’s the first time since 1974 that we’ve scored in each of the first two games in a top flight season. Ashley Barnes has scored in both; Ray Hankin did in those games 45 years ago, and should Barnes net tomorrow he’ll be the first Burnley player since Frank Casper in 1967 to score in our first three top flight games in a season.

Sean Dyche has spoken this week about the strength of the squad and that giving us the potential to make changes. He suggested that a player might not make the bench one week but could start the week after. With that in mind, I think it could well be the same team again tomorrow that has started the two games so far.

Steven Defour is working with the physios while Robbie Brady is close to being available again as is Danny Drinkwater who is likely to make his first team debut for us in the League Cup against Sunderland next Wednesday.

I expect us to line up: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, Ben Gibson, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Aaron Lennon, Jay Rodriguez.

Wolves have kicked off their season with two draws, firstly a goalless draw at Leicester and then at home against Manchester United and all this while taking their turn at juggling the fixtures with their Europa League commitments and it looks as though they might well go further than us in that competition with a home leg against Torino to come this week after they won 3-2 in Italy two nights ago.

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They are a good, strong side and have definitely bought well since they won promotion from the Championship in 2018. They did so with 99 points and last season grabbed that seventh place finish with 57 points, three more than our final total a year earlier. They have some outstanding players with probably Raúl Jiménez, Diogo Jota and Rúben Neves (pictured) the pick of them.

Manager Nuno Esperito Sancho made four changes to his side for the Europa League game although one of those changes was forced on him with illness having forced Matt Doherty out of the Manchester United game at half time.

They lined up against United in that last league game: Rui Patrício, Ryan Bennett, Conor Coady, Willy Boly, Matt Doherty, Leander Dendoncker, Rúben Neves, João Moutinho, Jonny Otto, Raúl Jiménez, Diogo Jota. Subs: John Ruddy, Pedro Neto, Patrick Cutrone, Morgan Gibbs-White, Romain Saïss, Rúben Vinagre, Adama Traoré.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

This was supposedly when our 2018/19 league season was really going to get underway. We went to Molineux having picked up one point from the first four games, that in a 0-0 draw at Southampton in the opening game, but we went there not having had to play on the previous Thursday and we were also coming back from the first international break.

Europe out of the system, no more long midweek trips to far flung parts of the continent and we’d soon be back playing how we’d played in the previous season. Not on your life, our game at Molineux last season was one that should be right up at the head of the queue when we look to forget games.

It was a fourth successive defeat and we travelled back up the M6 in bottom place in the Premier League with concerns already mounting as to whether we were finally going to succumb and suffer relegation after three years in the top league.

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In an attempt to get back to basics, Sean Dyche restored the favoured 4-4-2 formation. Out went Ashley Westwood and Chris Wood; in came Ashley Barnes and Sam Vokes. One other change saw Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson return for Dwight McNeil.

We lost the game 1-0 with Raúl Jiménez scoring the only goal just past the hour. That was a positive because we would have lost the game by a much bigger scoreline had Wolves not missed far too many chances for their own liking.

Thankfully we did eventually improve and stayed up comfortably and now return to Molineux where surely we’ll perform better than we did almost a year ago.

The teams were;

Wolves: Rui Patrício, Matt Doherty, Ryan Bennett, Conor Coady, Willy Boly, Jonny Otto, Rúben Neves, João Moutinho, Hélda Costa (Adama Traoré 66), Diogo Jota (Morgan Gibbs-White 88), Raúl Jiménez (Leo Bonatini 76). Subs not used: John Ruddy, Kourtney Hause, Romain Saïss, Rúben Vinagre.

Burnley: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Aaron Lennon, Jack Cork, Jeff Hendrick (Ashley Westwood 79), Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Sam Vokes (Chris Wood 70), Ashley Barnes (Matěj Vydra 56). Subs not used: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Stephen Ward.

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