PMB: Chelsea v Wolves - matchday

The final part of the Pre-Match Briefing gets you ready for today's game...

• Tottenham ended Chelsea’s unbeaten start this season but it was Wolves that set a pattern of Chelsea losing confidence after conceding, with us having missed plenty of earlier chances when we played at Molineux in December. ‘After Wolves scored to make it 1-1 we stopped playing,’ Maurizio Sarri recalled this week. Earlier goalmouth inefficiency proved costly – just three of the Blues’ 17 shots were on target and only Ruben Loftus-Cheek found a way past Rui Patricio. The England midfielder, who along with Callum Hudson-Odoi performed a dynamic cameo against Kiev in midweek, will have recovered sufficiently from his back problem to play 90 minutes in a few weeks, Sarri said.

• Hudson-Odoi’s snap finish for 3-0 (his third in the Europa) hopefully makes the second leg in Ukraine less onerous. Another quick turnaround in matches, though, is likely to mean six or seven changes again for today’s starting XI. Key players rested on Thursday are likely to return. It is worth remembering that Jorginho and David Luiz sat out the Molineux defeat, and the Blues have January signing Gonzalo Higuain to lead the line. After the opener at Fulham, where he might have had a hat-trick, the Argentinian now has three goals in five top-flight matches.

Kepa Arrizabalaga was beaten in the Wolves defeat but the Kiev result means the Spain goalie has managed 18 clean sheets in 39 appearances since arriving in England, 11 of them in the Premier League.


• Wolves have had a clear week to rest and prepare for this. Nuno Espirito Santo made bold personnel changes at home to Cardiff last weekend after disappointment at Huddersfield. Rui Patricio, whose distribution has been criticised of late, was dropped, with John Ruddy donning the gloves. Romain Saiss was in Ruben Neves’s midfield fulcrum role, and both wing-backs were swapped: speed merchant Adama Traore (a first league start of 2019) in place of Matt Doherty, and Ruben Vinagre for Jonny Castro.

• The comfortable 2-0 win exemplified the strength of their squad as well as the players’ faith in their coach, though most regulars will return this weekend. One who will not is suspended centre-back Ryan Bennett. The last few times the regular defensive trio of Bennett-Coady-Boly has been unavailable Santos has selected Saiss.

• After a slow start, ever-present Raul Jimenez has contributed 11 top-tier goals and seven assists to Wanderers’ cause. The second at home to the Bluebirds last weekend was the fifth in six games for the Mexico centre-forward, who netted the game-changing equaliser in the reverse fixture at Molineux.

Maurizio Sarri's pre-match quotes

‘In the last five matches we won four and drew against Manchester City. In five matches we conceded only one goal.

‘Now we are improving in consistency, we are improving in defensive solidity, but we have to be careful. In the past we had a long period of results, and then suddenly two weeks of disaster. So we have to be careful.’

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo's pre-match quotes

‘We don't look at the table, we have to compete on Sunday, the best way we can against a very tough team, with very good players and a very good manager. It's a tough stadium to go to. We have to know that going there, we have to be ready to compete. It's a big thing for us; to be truly ready to compete.’

‘Ryan Bennett has been doing very well, but we truly believe who's coming in will give a good answer. We are versatile enough to have options.’


Matchday weather outlook

There might be some sun early Sunday afternoon in SW6, but it will be windy.


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