Championship title winners Wolverhampton Wanderers will receive an early taste of the quality at the top end of the Premier League when they host reigning champions Manchester City at Molineux on Saturday (12:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Wolves have arrived in the top flight with relatively big expectations after comfortably winning the Championship last season with Chinese investment and a strong Portuguese influence. Most bookmakers have them far more likely to make the top 10 than be relegated.
While that could, of course, simply be due to recognition of the competitiveness of the Championship after all three of last season’s promoted teams stayed up, given that Cardiff and Fulham are both among the favourites for relegation this time around, it would seem that Wolves themselves are rated as a solidly mid-table Premier League side.
That impression has been somewhat backed up by their first two matches back in the top flight following a six-year absence. Although Wolves have only taken a point from games at home to Everton (2-2) and away to Leicester (0-2), their performances against two sides aiming for a top-eight finish were sufficiently solid to suggest theirs will be a decent campaign.
The club did good business over the summer to sign on a permanent basis some of the players who contributed heavily to their promotion campaign and add to their Portuguese contingent with the cut-price signings of experienced midfielder Joao Moutinho and long-standing Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio. Benfica loanee Raul Jimenez is a solid centre-forward, while Adama Traore and Belgian midfielder Leander Dendoncker have also arrived.
Nuno Espirito Santo has a good squad to work with and is sufficiently flexible in his approach to be able to form a team capable of taking the initiative when required but of also sitting back and playing on the counter against stronger opponents. That latter approach is most likely to be the one he applies on Saturday against an awesome Manchester City side.
Man City have begun the new season in the same style in which they dominated the previous campaign. The reigning champions saw off Arsenal 2-0 on the opening day of the season and followed that with a 6-1 thrashing of Huddersfield last weekend. Sergio Aguero grabbed a hat-trick, Gabriel Jesus and David Silva both scored and an own goal finished things off.
By their own standards, City didn’t spend big this summer. Riyad Mahrez was the only first-team arrival, signing for over £60 million from Leicester City, but it is otherwise a settled group. Improvement will come from ever-increasing understanding and confidence in a young and talented squad, and from getting more from players who for one reason or another were unable to contribute fully last time around.
For instance, after the win over Huddersfield, Pep Guardiola highlighted the importance of the return of Benjamin Mendy, who missed most of last season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament shortly after joining from Monaco. The Frenchman provided a great deal of attacking thrust down the left, and picked up an assist for Aguero’s third goal in an impressive display. His ability to get forward allowed for a narrow, two-man strike-force.
It is difficult to look at Man City’s starting XI, squad and the synergy that appears to exist between Guardiola’s ideas and their application by his players and not see a team who are primed to defend their Premier League crown successfully. They are fearsome opponents for any team.
Wolves did hold a pretty strong Man City XI to a 0-0 draw through 120 minutes of their encounter in the fourth round of last seasons’s Carabao Cup, but it will be very hard for them to replicate that on Saturday. In the Premier League, City won 22 of their 38 matches by two or more goals, and have done the same in both of their two matches of the new campaign. A victory by a similar margin looks the most likely outcome this weekend.
Our Preview’s Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Manchester City Betting Tips Verdict
- Bet on Manchester City -2 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 7/5 with BetVictor.