Prediction: Wolves to win to nil
Premier League clubs make their first venture into the 2020/21 FA Cup this weekend, with top-flight rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crystal Palace coming together at Molineux on Friday evening.
The two sides come into the tie having endured inconsistent seasons thus far, with just one place separating them in the top-flight table.
Having challenged for European football in the last two seasons following promotion, it now looks like Wolves’ best chance of returning to that stage is via the FA Cup. Nuno Espirito Santo’s men currently sit 13th in the Premier League table having won just six out of their opening 17 league matches. The West-Midlands outfit are also in the midst of a tricky run of form. Having let a two-goal lead slip against Brighton & Hove Albion to draw 3-3, it now means that Wolves have won just two out of their last ten games in all competitions. They have also not managed to keep a clean sheet in any of those ten matches, with their last shutout ironically coming against Crystal Palace on home soil back in October. FA Cup semi-finalists in 2019, Nuno will hope that his charges can harness the spirit of those times to progress. Wolves have not been defeated in any of their last five home matches in the FA Cup. However, they have been eliminated at the third round stage in four out of the last six seasons.
Wolves are currently marred by a few injuries to key personnel. With long-term absentees Raul Jimenez and Jonny still restricted to the sidelines, they have been joined by Fernando Marcal, Leander Dendoncker, Willy Boly and Daniel Podence, none of which will be fit for Friday’s game. As a result, they have had to bolster their ranks with a few loan returnees. Striker Patrick Cutrone has been recalled from Fiorentina, whilst midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White has seen his deal at Championship outfit Swansea City be cut short. Both players could be in contention against Crystal Palace.
Much like Wolves, Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace are not enjoying the best time of things. Of their last nine games, the Eagles have only managed to win two. One of those did come last time out with the 2-0 victory against Sheffield United. Surprisingly, they now have the chance to win back-to-back games for the first time since football restarted following the suspension due to the coronavirus. Palace also managed to earn a rare clean sheet last time out. Their win against the Blades was their first shutout since their opening day win at home to Southampton. They will hope to use that new-found defensive solidarity to help them through to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup once again. Since earning promotion to Premier League nearly nine years ago, the Eagles have only failed to progress past the Third Round of the competition just twice, even reaching the final in 2016.
Roy Hodgson’s injury woes only seem to be worsening as the weeks go by. Jeffrey Schlupp is set to be ruled out with a thigh injury, whilst both Gary Cahill and Christian Benteke have suffered similar problems so are not in contention. Scott Dann is also going to miss out with a hamstring injury. Connor Wickham, Wayne Hennessey, Martin Kelly and Nathan Ferguson all remain in the treatment room. Roy Hodgson has already suggested that he will rotate so it would not be a surprise to see the likes of Michy Batshuayi, Max Meyer and Jack Butland start.
Key Facts To Consider
- Wolves have a better all-time head-to-head record between the two sides (W28, 19, L21)
- Wolves have won the last two matches at Molineux between the two 2-0
- In eight FA Cup matches between the two, Wolves have only won two
- Only one side has scored in four out of the last five games between the two
- Wolves have not won three consecutive home matches against Crystal Palace since 1994
In itself, this match is very difficult to call considering the respective form of each side and the potential for rotation. Wolves have the historical advantage however, and on paper, the better team. The hosts should earn a marginal win.
Prediction: Wolves to win to nil
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