Mick McCarthy’s men can take a huge step towards Premier League survival with a victory over relegation rivals Burnley at Turf Moor this Saturday.
The Wanderers are facing what could be one of the most defining weekends in the Premier League’s battle at the bottom in their first instalment of a claret-and-blue triple header against Burnley, Aston Villa and West Ham. Wolves’ clash with the Clarets is a huge six-pointer with both teams currently deadlocked. Wolverhampton can take heart from the fact they currently have a game in hand and a superior goal difference over Burnley, who are one place below Wolves in 18th. Hull City and West Ham, two of the other relegation candidates, have tough games against Arsenal and Chelsea respectively and Wolves will hope the two top four clubs will do them a favour.
McCarthy will know what he is up against as Burnley have an impressive home record, having only lost on their own patch three times this season against Wigan Athletic, Chelsea and Portsmouth. They do, however, look slightly more vulnerable at Turf Moor since the departure of their former boss Owen Coyle. McCarthy remains confident of a good performance despite claims that his men have not performed on the road enough this season. He said: “We’ve already beaten Wigan and Tottenham away and drawn at Everton, Stoke and Hull, so there’s nine points. The reality is but for a wonder strike at Sunderland, we were cooking on gas there, and but for the sending off at Liverpool, we were flying there as well without any problems. So I’ve got no problems with going away from home.”
Wolves have had some trouble in the goal scoring department for much of the season and McCarthy will hope the likes of Kevin Doyle can turn chances into goals as the manager admits his frustration of playing well and losing. When McCarthy was asked if he was sick of talking about dropping points after seemingly doing enough to take at least one he said: “Yes and no. Yes I am but I’m glad we’re playing well because that’s the only way we can turn it around. We’ve just got to get over Saturday’s game [against Manchester United].” At Molineux Doyle and Nenad Milijas fired Wolves into a convincing two goal victory over Burnley and Wolves fans have many reasons to hope they can repeat that performance in Turf Moor fixture.
The performances of Wolves’ record signing and star striker Doyle will have a huge effect on their bid for survival and also his future at the club. The 26-year-old Republic of Ireland international has impressed this season and there is no doubt he has gained his admirers, many of whom will be sniffing around with increased enthusiasm should the Midlands club drop into the Championship. His manager insists that Doyle is focused on Wolves and their plight, and will not be affected despite speculation of his departure after the end of this season.
Former Republic of Ireland boss McCarthy knows Doyle will probably be the most pivotal figures should Wolves survive the drop but one of the biggest conundrums he faces is whether to pair the Irishman with a strike partner to help combat the lack of goals, or whether to keep faith in a 4-5-1 formation which has performed well creating chances but feeble at finishing them. Should McCarthy persist with the 4-5-1 he may want to make a change of personnel. The likes of Karl Henry, David Jones and Kevin Foley do not offer much in terms of goals or creative guile which remains a headache for the manager. Recalling the inconsistent Serbian midfielder Milijas could make the difference as his left foot and set piece abilities are something which the current first XI lacks and are crying out for. Matthew Jarvis was the most impressive player on the pitch against Manchester United at the weekend and should he continue that vein of form Wolves will continue to create chances – they just have to hope they fall to the right players.
McCarthy says that Wolverhampton Wanderers will make their own luck as they continue their bid for Premier League survival and as St Patrick’s Day approaches Doyle can provide a early slice of Irish luck with a goal or two on Saturday.
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