Still chasing a Champions League berth on two fronts, Wolverhampton look to continue their strong run of form Saturday when they host Brighton and Hove Albion at Molineux.
The Wolves (10-12-6), who trail Manchester United on goal difference for fifth, are in the lead pack with Chelsea – three points better than both sides – and United for what could be the final two Champions League berths. That is pending Manchester City’s appeal of their two-year European ban by UEFA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are also still able to gain entry into the continent’s top club competition via the Europa League, having progressed to the round of 16 with a 6-3 aggregate victory over Spanish side Espanyol. Wolves will face Greek side Olympiakos, who are looking for second Premier League pelt after sending Arsenal packing in the previous knockout round.
Wolverhampton, though, look to have the mettle and verve to be a far more difficult out than the Gunners when that two-legged tie starts in Piraeus on March 12. They are coming off a gritty 3-2 victory at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, rallying behind second-half goals by top strikers Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez.
Jota has been unplayable of late, scoring six goals in his last three matches in all competitions after totaling just seven in his first 28. The Portugal international has found a comfort zone in the Europa League with seven goals, and his current run looms ominously for Brighton since he powered Wolves to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture with a first-half brace.
«We’re fighting on two fronts, so have two opportunities to try and do something really special. That’s why today was so big,» said fullback Matt Doherty, who had a goal in the victory over Spurs, to the team’s official website. «We’ve got a home game next week – we’ll obviously try and win that, and finish as high as we can. We’re in a good moment and our goal is to go the rest of the season unbeaten.»
After a brief blip, Jimenez also appears to be back on song with goals in back-to-back contests. The Mexico international has 18 goals and nine assists in 38 matches across all competitions for Wolves, including six goals in his last nine road contests in league play.
Brighton and Hove Albion (6-10-12) are still looking to create some daylight between themselves and the relegation spots as they enter this contest in 15th on 28 points – just one point clear of the bottom three. The Seagulls are winless in their last eight (0-4-4) in all competitions and have just one victory in their last 13 overall following a 1-0 home loss to Crystal Palace last Saturday.
A lack of offence at home again plagued Brighton, who have totaled three goals in five matches at the AMEX since the turn of the calendar year. But it was more of Graham Potter’s team being profligate with their chances – Brighton had 24 shots overall and eight on target, with Neal Maupay particularly snake-bit with five shots stopped by Palace keeper Mat Ryan.
«We’ve been here before haven’t we? Every season since we came into the Premier League we’ve been fighting for survival so it’s nothing new to us,» 36-year-old striker Glenn Murray told the club’s official website.
«We don’t think we are better than our current position. We’ve got to deal with this situation, lift ourselves and make sure we compete in every game between now and the end of the season, starting against Wolves on Saturday.»
While Brighton have clawed out draws in their last two matches on the road, they have just one victory in their last 13 away from AMEX in all competitions (1-4-8) since opening the season with wins at Watford in league play and Bristol Rovers in the Carabao Cup.
Jota bracketed goals by Maupay and Davy Propper in a frantic opening 45 minutes when all the scoring took place. Jota’s first goal gave Wolves a lead that lasted all of six minutes before Brighton countered with their two goals 96 seconds apart.
The Seagulls have proven a bogey team of sorts for Wolves both here and in the Championship, losing just once in the last 11 meetings (4-6-1).