Diogo Jota

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Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Wolves

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Wolverhampton Wanderers look preserve their good form – most recently showcased against Manchester City – when they visit Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday (Watch Live at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Sunday’s bout will see both clubs meet for the first time this season.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

With an instant-classic, 3-2 comeback win against City on Thursday, Wolves sit fifth on the table, while Liverpool – as we all know – are unbeaten and on pace to break the all-time most points record (100) set in 2018.

With four games in two days, are either side set to make drastic changes to their side? With the chance to leapfrog Chelsea with a win, it’s unlikely Wolves will, although it’s likelier Liverpool will elect to make a change or two.


Injuries/suspensions

Liverpool: OUT —  Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Fabinho (hamstring), Joel Matip (knee), Nathaniel Clyne (ACL), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle)

Wolves: OUT — Willy Boly (ankle), Morgan Gibbs-White (back)


Probable lineups

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Lallana, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Wolves: Rui Patricio; Dendoncker, Coady, Saiss; Doherty, Neves, Joao Moutinho, Vinagre; Traore, Jimenez, Jota.


What they’re saying 

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp on how dangerous Wolves will be: “Very – very, unfortunately. I really think the job Nuno is doing there is incredible with all the Europa League stress. I think at the beginning of the season they realized a little bit, ‘Oh, that’s different’. But now they are settled completely there, they are there again, Jimenez and Jota are scoring again. They had to change a little bit the last line to last year; Bennett and Boly are not playing consistently so they had to change that, but they have good options there. Traore finally found his manager, who found a position for him – he started as a wing-back and now he can even play in the front three. An exceptional player, as a kid he was already exceptional when he played for Barca I think, probably the quickest player in the league. So, a lot of really good things there and that makes it really difficult to play against them, of course. But it should be difficult against us as well, that’s the plan.”

Traore on Wolves’ thrilling comeback against Manchester City: “This team is amazing. We fight until the end, whatever the situation. That’s what we did today and I’m so happy for the team. Every one of us has worked so hard, we believed we could get this result.”

“Liverpool are a great team and are many points in front. We will fight to give our best.”


Prediction

13 points clear of Leicester City and with a jam-packed schedule ahead, it’s expected for Klopp and company to go into Sunday’s game with bit of a free-and-easy attitude. That said, an inspired Wolves will still remain outweighed by the Reds’ chemistry and excessive firepower, but the bout should still be an authentic showdown. Liverpool, 2-1.

VIDEO: 10-man City lead Wolves after wild first half

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The Premier League’s famous subplots, drama and world-class intrigue were compressed and on full display at Molineux Stadium on Friday.

[ WATCH LIVE: Wolves v. Man City ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers – animated and daring as ever before – hit the ground running against a similar Manchester City they edged in early October. Conor Coady‘s lofting ball broke the visitor’s backline, finding a lone Diogo Jota, who had only Ederson to beat.

And that’s when the floodgates opened.

[ STREAM: Wolves v. Man City ]

The Brazilian goalkeeper was presented a red card for his collision with the Portuguese attacker, leaving City with 10 players. With Claudio Bravo on the bench, Pep Guardiola and company pulled Sergio Aguero and summoned the Chilean.

Less than ten minutes later, Riyad Mahrez was tripped up inside Wolves’ box, forcing a VAR review and a subsequent penalty call from referee Martin Atkinson. Raheem Sterling stepped up to the spot, but Rui Patricio’s penalty-saving techniques were on full display.

Then again came a signal from VAR, calling for a second attempt.

Despite Guardiola signaling for someone rather than Sterling to try and covert from the spot, the Englishmen made sure to finish his chance despite getting his initial strike blocked by Patricio, again.

This is the Premier League’s magic in less than 30 minutes.

Mourinho lavishes praise on Spurs: ‘A real team’ in win

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Tottenham Hotspur and Wolves played one of the most intense matches of the Premier League season on Sunday, two attack-ready teams on a rain-drenched pitch.

Spurs came out with a 2-1 win thanks to Jan Vertonghen‘s stoppage time header at the Molineux, running Jose Mourinho’s record to five wins and two losses.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

One of those defeats was a UEFA Champions League dead rubber on Wednesday at Bayern Munich, which was a fun watch but had little desperation.

Sunday was a different story. Wolves and Spurs were well aware that a win would put them on the precipice of the Top Four.

Mourinho is building his team up big time, saying the North London side has re-found itself as a unit amongst the rubble of Mauricio Pochettino‘s firing.

“It’s one of these victories where quality is not enough,” Mourinho said, via Football.London. “If you are not a team, a real team in the sense of what the word team means it’s impossible.”

“This match is the perfect example of a match that only a team can win. You have to be a team.”

Spurs scored early and late but had plenty to do in between as Wolves looked to extend their league unbeaten run to 12 matches.

Wolves had more of the ball and passed well, scoring through Adama Traore, but Spurs made 37 clearances and goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga was there when needed with four saves.

Mourinho has plenty of respect for the work his countryman Nuno Espirito Santo has done with Wolves, and said it was a true grind.

“We tried and we did start well, to put pressure on them and try to attack them to take them away from their comfort zone. That comfort zone is to have the ball and to project Doherty and Jonny and Jota and Traore are unstoppable. They are trains. But then we had the difficult part of the game and it was very important to deal with that difficult part.”

Now winning Spurs can pass Chelsea and climb into fourth with a win over the Blues on Sunday. Get your proverbial and physical popcorn ready, especially if you like a nice morning popcorn.

PL Sunday preview: Man United, Tottenham in action; Arsenal host Man City

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures promise to have it all as an in-form Manchester United host a new-era Everton; Wolves look to continue a historic unbeaten run against Jose Mourinho and company; and Arsenal take on Manchester City, who are in dire need of three points.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Wolves vs. Tottenham  — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Just how much do Portuguese managers Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo care about Sunday’s clash between their teams?

So much that both managers elected to omit key players during European midweek duty in order to have full-power lineups for a match that has serious implications on their chances of qualifying for European competition next year.

Wolves will have a fresh Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore, while Harry Kane will reappear for Spurs after being absent midweek against Bayern Munich. But the 26-year-old striker will not have any additional breaks ahead of a busy festive period, according to Mourinho.

For now, it’s tough to say who has the upper hand from resting key players. That said, Wolves had more players sidelined, and while two-thirds of the attack (Jimenez and Traore) watched Wolves pulverize Besiktas from the stands, Diogo Jota bagged a hat-trick.

With a club-record 12-match unbeaten run in Premier League play, there are no doubts that things are going well for Espirito Santo and company. They are the team to beat.

“[He] is getting some praise for the work he is doing,” Mourinho said ahead of the match. “In my opinion, not enough. He deserves more than what he is getting. Fantastic work.”

“He is a much better manager than a player. I’m not saying he was a bad player, but he’s a much better manager. Wolves are one of the best teams from a tactical point of view.”

If Spurs want to stand a chance, they’ll have to correct their defensive deficiencies. There’s a 99-percent chance Mourinho knows that already, though.

INJURIES: Wolves — OUT: Boly (leg), Gibbs-White (back)| Tottenham — OUT: Lamela (hamstring), Ndombele (groin), Vorm (calf), Lloris (elbow), Davies (ankle)

Manchester United vs. Everton — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

All of the parallels between Manchester United and Everton are conjoining at the Theater of Dreams on Sunday.

Around this time a year ago, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed caretaker of Manchester United. A former standout Red Devil, the task to take the helm of the club was not only a tall one given the popularity of Manchester United, but one that was emotionally taxing given his past with the team.

A year later, Duncan Ferguson – a striker who also made a name for himself in the ’90s – has the keys to the club that considers him a legend.

When the first whistle goes off, the subplots will evaporate, however.

Manchester United will go for their third consecutive league win since January, while Everton – still probably feeling the side effects of Marcelo Silva’s sacking – look for a second consecutive win in their new era. It’s not probable that it will be the case, but “Big Dunc” will go for it.

“It is going to be difficult for us but it’s one we will be up for,” he said. “United are on the up at the moment and they are a very good team. It will be a big ask but I am sure we can give a good account of ourselves.”

“I’d be on the roof if we get a win there,” he added. “But we can do it and that’s what we’ll try to do.”

INJURIES: Manchester United — OUT: Bailly (knee), Fosu-Mensah (knee), Pogba (ankle) | Everton — OUT: Walcott (calf), Schneiderlin (calf), Gbamin (thigh), Gomes (ankle)

Arsenal vs. Manchester City — 9:00 a.m ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Just how tough is the main job at Arsenal? If we strictly zero in on Freddie Ljungberg‘s latest request, it becomes apparent that managing the Gunners at this point in time comes with unique challenges and limitations that not every manager-in-the-making can bare.

The 42-year-old Arsenal legend, who is currently serving as Arsenal’s interim manager, is calling for the club’s board to swiftly come to a resolution in their search for a full-time manager, according to The Guardian.

In three league matches at the helm of Arsenal, Ljungberg has earned four points – losing only to Brighton 2-1 at the Emirates. That said, the former winger has yet to face a side that sits higher than his team on the table.

That will change with Manchester City visiting on Sunday.

Looking to bounce back from their Manchester Derby defeat, Pep Guardiola reveled that he’s studied his opponent’s new look, although when going against the North London team, it’s all about not letting them feel comfortable.

“I have not watched the previous games with Unai,” he says “I watched the games they played with Ljungberg to try to figure out what they’ll try to do.”

“But normally Arsenal have a typical style of play. If you let them play, they have the quality to play. Arsenal away is always a big test for any team.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Ceballos (thigh), Xhaka (concussion), Holding (knee), Tierney (shoulder) | Manchester City — OUT: Agüero (thigh), Stones (thigh), Laporte (knee), Sané (knee)

Jota takes super sub to new level in Wolves win

Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images
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Sometimes the phrase “game changer” is used a bit too loosely, but there’s no debating Diogo Jota fit the bill to a ‘t’ on Thursday.

Wolves scored four times in 11 minutes, three coming courtesy Jota, as the Premier League side buried Besiktas 4-0 in Europa League play on Thursday.

Jota entered in the 56th minute, scored in the 57th, and completed his hat trick in the 68th.

[ MORE: Who can Wolves draw in UEL? ]

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men had already clinched a place in the knockout rounds before the match day, and finish one point below Braga in Group K.

Jota has five goals in five days after scoring twice against Brighton on Sunday. The 23-year-old had an up-and-down season to start but has been mostly good over the past half-dozen games.

He has 37 goals in 107 matches with Wolves, including nine in all competitions this season. He scored nine times last season after a 17-goal campaign in the Championship.

Leander Dendoncker had Wolves’ other goal, with the day’s assists going to Oskar Buur, Joao Moutinho, and Pedro Neto.