Diogo Jota completed his Wolves hat trick on a day Leicester could’ve claimed seventh place in the Premier League, sending the Foxes to a loss despite overcoming 2-0 and 3-2 deficits away from home.
Puel covered his hands in the immediate aftermath of the goal before getting into a heated touchline argument with his staff about it. It’s fair to say the team room wasn’t a fun place after the match. From the BBC:
“We lacked quality in our play but we came back with fantastic spirit in the second half. We came back with desire, aggression and put Wolves under pressure. We made good pressing, continued our intensity but conceded a third goal after a fantastic feeling to come back but to finish 4-3, we need to waste some time. We didn’t manage the game at the end, we were naive in our goals and our management at the end of the game.
“This game is finished [at 3-3] – we needed to keep our position without trying to score another goal because there was a lot of tiredness. It was a fantastic feeling [to come back] and of course it is a big disappointment at the end.”
He’s right, and sadly there’s a chance he may lose his job because his team lost its brain in the final few minutes. Managers are responsible for results, but what is Puel supposed to do when everyone in the building knew a point away to Wolves would’ve been completely acceptable and kept the visitors ahead of their hosts on the table.
Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City are both capable of the sublime and the miserable, and meet Saturday at the Molineux with Top Seven positioning on the line (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Wolves have lost to Crystal Palace and Man City since their controlling 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur to close out 2018. They also boast a win over Chelsea and a draw with Arsenal… and a loss at Cardiff.
Leicester has lost to both Saints and Cardiff at home, but those disappointments are sandwiched around an away win over Everton.
And to boot: Wolves are a lower half team in terms of home performance, while Leicester is a Top Six side away from King Power Stadium.
Shoulder shrug emoji?
What they’re saying
Wolves’ Nuno Espirito Santo on the season:“What gives us the heart is that we are trying to build something together, not just from now. Last season we didn’t look at the table and we were in the Championship. Now we are in the Premier League why would we change?”
Leicester City boss Claude Puel on Jamie Vardy dressing as Spiderman at training: “We need a super-hero I think. We all know about Jamie – I am not surprised it was him. He dressed up and it was a good laugh and freshness. … I appreciate it a lot, it is good – Spider-man was a great feeling. It’s important like Spider-man we keep concentration and focus, and keep a good atmosphere between us and around us. It is important to find a smile. Football is a game and we need to enjoy training sessions and games.”
After all that, you want us to predict two very unpredictable sides? Fine. 1-1, with Raul Jimenez and Jamie Vardy trading strikes. So go ahead and bet on 4-2, Wolves.
4. Eddie Howe, Bournemouth (37 matches, 50 points) — Put aside the Cherries’ recent and mighty struggles against any decent opponent, Bournemouth entered 2018 in the drop zone and finished 12th. That was 11 points clear of the drop zone. They are 11 points clear of the drop entering 2019, and Howe remains one of the most talked-about, “Would he leave for (Bigger Team X)?” managers in the game.
3. Pep Guardiola, Manchester City (37 matches, 88 points) — City’s second half of the season completed a record-smashing title campaign with all the accompanying pressure.
2. Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool (37 matches, 88 points) — The tiebreaker? Klopp’s Reds went 3W-1D against Guardiola’s Citizens in 2018.
Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur (38 matches, 85 points) — City spent about $160m from Jan. 2018 to date; Liverpool spent about $298m; Spurs spent just under $33 million, and their wage bill was sixth in the Premier League.
Chelsea will likely have Alvaro Morata back from a knee injury which left the Blues to play Eden Hazard up front as a false nine last weekend in a 2-1 win over Brighton, but speculation persists that Sarri will name an unchanged lineup, leaving the Belgian playmaker again up top.
Olivier Giroud is also available, and the Frenchman came on as a late substitute for Hazard in the Brighton win, but despite having two true strikers at his disposal, Sarri may decide to leave both on the sideline. Chelsea lost two of three in league play earlier this month, but a pair of wins – including a win over juggernauts Man City – has seen the Blues hold Arsenal off for fourth in the league table.
For Leicester, Jamie Vardy is back from an injury and could return to the Foxes’ lineup despite comments midweek that claimed Claude Puel‘s tactics do not play to his strengths. Ben Chilwell is also back from a knee injury and could make an appearance, while Wilfried Ndidi is out with his own knee injury.
The Foxes have won just once over their last six matches dating back to November 10, and with a match against Manchester City set to follow this at Stamford Bridge, the noise regarding Puel’s job security threatens to rise to a dull roar. With games against Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham all in succession in late January, points are at a premium over the festive period for Leicester.
What they’re saying
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri on playing over Christmas: “We have to play every three days, so there is no Christmas for us. It depends only on the match. If the match is in the evening, we can stay at home the evening before. If the match is at 3 p.m. or 1 p.m., we will go to the hotel, as usual. I like more to play football. I am lucky — in Serie B in Italy, we played over Christmas and I liked it very much. In the Italian stadia, there was a wonderful atmosphere.”
Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy on Puel’s tactics: “No [they do not suit me], but is that down to me to adapt to it? Yes. And obviously the only way I’m going to do that and keep progressing is working hard on the training field.”
Striker or not, Sarri has Chelsea at his fingertips, and the Blues are fully prepared for a match against a Leicester City side that could rotate players with the festive period coming up. Especially with Morata available off the bench, the Foxes won’t be able to keep the Chelsea attack at bay, with a 3-0 win not flattering the Blues at all.