Premier League team news: predicted lineups for the weekend action | Manchester City

Bournemouth v Everton

Saturday 3pm Venue Vitality Stadium Last season n/a

Referee Craig Pawson This season G7 Y31 R0 4.43 cards/game

Odds H 19-10 A 7-4 D 9-4

Bournemouth v Everton


Subs from Dennis,Christie, Marcondes, Rothwell, Stacey, Lowe, Stanislas, Zemura, Dembélé, Pearson, Hill, Anthony

Doubtful Zemura (knock)

Injured Brooks (thigh, 26 Dec), Kelly (ankle, 26 Dec), Neto (thigh, 26 Dec)

Suspended Mepham (one match)

Discipline Y22 R0


Leading scorer Billing 4


Subs from Begovic, Jakupovic, Lonergan, Patterson, Mina, Keane, Holgate, Vinagre, Doucouré, Garner, Davies, Rondón, McNeil, Welch, Mills, John, Cannon

Doubtful Holgate (knee)

Injured Calvert-Lewin (hamstring/knee, 26 Dec), Godfrey (broken leg, 26 Dec), Townsend (knee, 26 Dec)

Suspended None

Discipline Y33 R0


Leading scorer Gordon 3

Liverpool v Southampton

Saturday 3pm Venue Anfield Last season Liverpool 4 Southampton 0

Referee Simon Hooper This season G9 Y26 R0 2.88 cards/game

Odds H 3-11 A 11-1 D 6-1

Liverpool v Southampton


Subs from Adrián, Kelleher, Davies, Ramsay, Matip, Tsimikas, Phillips, Milner, Jones, Elliott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bajcetic, Carvalho, Gomez

Doubtful Matip (calf), Milner (concussion)

Injured Keïta (thigh, 26 Dec), Díaz (knee, 26 Dec), Jota (calf, Jan), Arthur (thigh, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y12 R1


Leading scorers Firmino, Salah 6


Subs from Caballero, McCarthy, Caleta-Car, A Armstrong, Mara, Djenepo, Edozie, Diallo, Walcott

Doubtful xnamex (xreasonx), xnamex (xreasonx)

Injured Walker-Peters (thigh, 26 Dec), Livramento (knee, Jan), Larios (groin, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y22 R0


Leading scorer Adams 3

Nottingham Forest v Crystal Palace

Saturday 3pm Venue City Ground Last season n/a

Referee John Brooks This season G6 Y24 R0 4 cards/game

Odds H 11-5 A 16-11 D 2-1

Nottingham Forest v Crystal Palace

Nottingham Forest

Subs from Hennessey, Smith, Soh, Williams, Colback, Awoniyi, Surridge, Cafú, Kouyaté, Dennis, McKenna, Badé, Boly, Taylor

Doubtful Kouyaté (knock), McKenna (knock)

Injured Richards (calf, 26 Dec), Toffolo (thigh, 26 Dec), Biancone (knee, unknown), Niakhaté (thigh, unknown)

Suspended Mangala (one match)

Discipline Y34 R0


Leading scorer Awoniyi 3

Crystal Palace

Subs from Butland, Johnstone, Whitworth, Milivojevic, Tomkins, Mateta, Clyne, Hughes, Édouard, Ebiowei, Ferguson, Balmer, Riedewald, Gordon, Wells-Morrison, Phillips, Goodman, Rodney

Doubtful Édouard (thigh)

Injured McArthur (groin, unknown), Richards (thigh, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y29 R0


Leading scorer Zaha 6

Tottenham v Leeds

Saturday 3pm Venue Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Last season Tottenham 2 Leeds 1

Referee Michael Salisbury This season G6 Y31 R0 5.16 cards/game

Odds H 11-17 A 43-10 D 17-5

Tottenham v Leeds


Subs from Forster, Austin, Doherty, Spence, Sánchez, Tanganga, Bissouma, Skipp, Sarr, Lucas Moura, Gil

Doubtful Lucas Moura (tendon)

Injured Romero (calf, 14 Nov), Sessegnon (knock, 14 Nov), Son (eye, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y25 R1


Leading scorer Kane 11


Subs from Klaesson, Robles, Ayling, Llorente, Firpo, Hjelde, Gelhardt, Greenwood, Harrison, Gyabi, Drameh

Doubtful Gelhardt (knock), Harrison (knock)

Injured Bamford (hip, 26 Dec), Forshaw (knee, 26 Dec), Gray (ankle, 26 Dec), Klich (knee, 26 Dec), Sinisterra (ankle, 26 Dec), Dallas (broken leg, Jan)

Suspended None

Discipline Y25 R1


Leading scorer Rodrigo 7

West Ham v Leicester

Saturday 3pm Venue London Stadium Last season West Ham 4 Leicester 1

Referee Jarred Gillett This season G6 Y24 R0 4 cards/game

Odds H Evs A 11-4 D 5-2

West Ham v Leicester

West Ham

Subs from Areola, Randolph, Johnson, Coufal, Fornals, Antonio, Lanzini, Downes, Ogbonna, Aguerd, Coventry, Ashby

Doubtful None

Injured Cornet (calf, unknown), Palmieri (knock, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y16 R0


Leading scorers Antonio, Benrahma, Bowen, Scamacca 2


Subs from Iversen, Smithies, Ward, Vardy, Albrighton, Iheanacho, Pérez, Amartey, Vestergaard, Mendy, Soumaré

Doubtful None

Injured Pereira (calf, Jan), Justin (achilles, May), Bertrand (knee, unknown), Soyuncu (hamstring, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y17 R0


Leading scorer Maddison 6

Newcastle v Chelsea

Saturday 5.30pm Sky Sports Premier League Venue St James’ Park Last season Newcastle 0 Chelsea 3

Referee Robert Jones This season G8 Y28 R1 3.63 cards/game

Odds H 7-5 A 2-1 D 28-11

Newcastle v Chelsea


Subs from Darlow, Gillespie, Karius, Lascelles, Targett, Manquillo, Lewis, Shelvey, Anderson, S Longstaff, Wood, Fraser, Murphy

Doubtful Darlow (ankle), Fraser (calf), Wilson (illness)

Injured Isak (thigh, 26 Dec), Ritchie (calf, 26 Dec), Krafth (knee, Aug), Dummett (calf, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y20 R0


Leading scorer Almirón 8


Subs from Bettinelli, Jorginho, Pulisic, Broja, Zakaria, Ziyech, Gallagher, Koulibaly, Soonsup-Bell, Hall

Doubtful Jorginho (ankle)

Injured Arrizabalaga (ankle, 26 Dec), Kanté (thigh, Feb), Chilwell (thigh, unknown), Chukwuemeka (thigh, unknown), Fofana (knee, unknown), James (knee, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y31 R2


Leading scorers Havertz, Sterling 3

Brighton v Aston Villa

Sunday 2pm Sky Sports Premier League Venue Amex Stadium Last season Brighton 0 Aston Villa 2

Referee Chris Kavanagh This season G4 Y16 R0 4 cards/game

Odds H 9-10 A 10-3 D 3-1

Brighton v Aston Villa


Subs from McGill, Steele, Lamptey, Colwill, Welbeck, Sarmiento, Enciso, Undav, Gilmour, Van Hecke, Veltman

Doubtful None

Injured Moder (knee, Feb)

Suspended None

Discipline Y17 R0


Leading scorer Trossard 7

Aston Villa

Subs from Olsen, Steer, McGinn, Sanson, Ings, Chambers, Augustinsson, Young, Nakamba, Bednarek, Guilbert, Archer, Kamara

Doubtful None

Injured Coutinho (thigh, unknown), Diego Carlos (calf, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y30 R1


Leading scorers Bailey, Ings 3

Fulham v Manchester United

Sunday 4.30pm Sky Sports Premier League Venue Craven Cottage Last season n/a

Referee Paul Tierney This season G11 Y43 R2 4.09 cards/game

Odds H 3-1 A Evs D 3-1

Fulham v Manchester United


Subs from Rodak, Kurzawa, Adarabioyo, Duffy, Chalobah, James, Mbabu, Harris

Doubtful None

Injured Solomon (knee, Jan), Kebano (calf, unknown), Mitrovic (ankle, unknown)

Suspended Reed (one match), Tete (one match)

Discipline Y35 R1


Leading scorer Mitrovic 9

Manchester United

Subs from Dubravka, Heaton, Jones, Maguire, Ronaldo, Fred, Sancho, Pellistri, Van de Beek, Elanga, McTominay, Mengi, Shoretire, Garnacho

Doubtful Antony (match fitness), Ronaldo (illness), Sancho (illness)

Injured Varane (hamstring, 22 Nov), Tuanzebe (match fitness, unknown), Wan-Bissaka (match fitness, unknown), Williams (match fitness, unknown)

Suspended Dalot (one match)

Discipline Y36 R0


Leading scorer Rashford 4

Better late than never: Lopetegui’s winding route back into Wolves’ arms | Wolverhampton Wanderers

Julen Lopetegui is late. Six years since he first started working for Wolves, he has finally turned up – officially becoming manager 295 games after he was first supposed to, and five more games since he was last supposed to. There will be two more before he sits on the bench, his role formally beginning on 14 November.

Three hundred matches have already passed and Lopetegui has done a lot since then, taking charge of 204 games of his own. He has been through a lot too: Spain, Real Madrid and Sevilla, until a 4-1 Champions League defeat against Dortmund in early October. At the end of a night of “complex, mixed emotions”, he was pushed back on to the pitch by the sporting director who had sacked him. There, he heard fans chant his name. It must have been good but it was over. Now, a month on, the pause imposed by his father’s health, he returns to coaching.

“You can’t always choose what happens to you in life,” he said. You can’t always choose when it happens to you either. This should have happened sooner; not just once, but twice. Joining Wolves, that is – although perhaps leaving Sevilla too. Yet somehow it has ended up falling into place. Timing may not be everything, but looking at Lopetegui’s career it can feel that way. Few managers can have been moved so much by moments, a willingness to go with it, to seize the day. “If it’s raining you have to dance in the rain,” he said on his last night as coach of Sevilla. This time, though, he waited. Some things remain more important.

The very day that Wolves’s owners, Fosun International, announced their purchase of the club in July 2016, Lopetegui was at Las Rozas, 25km north-west of Madrid, being presented as the Spain manager, which wasn’t the way it was supposed to be: he had been working with Wolves throughout that summer, preparing for a new season and a new era in which he would be manager, only for the one call that he could not ignore to come just in time. He coached Spain for two years but was sacked the same day the World Cup began. He had barely touched down in Russia when he was heading back again, alone.

It had nothing to do with the results – Spain were unbeaten in 20 and flying, his hand clear in their approach – and a lot to do with timing. Lopetegui had agreed to take over at Real Madrid after the World Cup. Madrid, though, had ignored the Federation’s request to wait before announcing it, and the new RFEF president Luis Rubiales – who had been in the job less than a month – reacted as is his wont: chest puffed out and full of bluster. On the eve of Spain’s opening game in Sochi, Lopetegui was in Madrid and in tears, his dream destroyed. His team, too.

Julen Lopetegui at a Spain training session in Russia before he was sacked without taking charge of a World Cup game.
Julen Lopetegui at a Spain training session in Russia before he was sacked without taking charge of a World Cup game. Photograph: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images

“Many coaches have gone to a club after a World Cup or Euros: it could have been handled far more naturally. As well as being unbeaten, we built a clear identity. We were ready to achieve very, very big things and it hurt because they took us out at the moment when hope was highest,” Lopetegui said. There was something cruelly inevitable about his spell at the Santiago Bernabéu, the job he had given it all up for, then lasting just 138 days.

Yet there was something useful about it too, Sevilla sporting director Monchi admitting that Lopetegui’s need to achieve after the two biggest jobs a Spaniard can take had ended prematurely. He won the Europa League in his first season, broke Sevilla’s points record and secured three consecutive Champions League places for the first time in the club’s history. In two of those, they were candidates for the title. The reticence towards him – in Seville, the national team are hugely popular and Real Madrid are not – had been overcome.

His period there would end early, though. Or maybe it ended late. There had been some doubts about his continuity at the end of last season – a season that reached the halfway stage with Sevilla looking like title contenders for a second year running, but which had slipped from them draw by draw. Instead, he began another campaign at the Sánchez Pizjuán with both his central defenders departing, signings that were underwhelming and an ageing squad. And, having collected just five points from 21 and one from nine in Europe, with pressure increasing on the president, he was sacked. It has not been any better without him – in fact, it has been worse – but it had been coming. Indeed, it was already done, the coach kept in place only by the wait for replacement.

Asked after his final game whether he was still the manager, Lopetegui smiled and said that he didn’t know how this works now. “And will you be tomorrow?” he was asked. “No,” he replied. At 11.23pm, less than half an hour after the final whistle, an open secret was finally official. He had taken charge of the last game knowing he was gone, doing so with a dignity that wasn’t always reciprocated. It was October and he was out of work again. Yet if that didn’t appear to be good timing, it soon looked like it was, his release coming just two days after Wolves had sacked Bruno Lage. One door closes, another opens.

Straight back into it, then. Ready to start what was put on pause six years earlier.

Not exactly, not as it turned out. The idea was to take a little time to breathe, if only briefly. But that became extended. Lopetegui went to see his father, José Antonio, first, intending to take a few days before full talks began, before it all started up again. José Antonio’s health, though, was delicate and Lopetegui chose to stay with him. He spoke to Wolves but turned them down: it wasn’t the right moment.

A month on, it is. Wolves, convinced that Lopetegui was the ideal candidate, had not found an alternative. “Since the very beginning, Julen has been our No 1 choice, and we look forward to welcoming him and his team when they join us in the coming weeks,” Jeff Shi said on Friday. For his part, a man very aware of what the profession takes from you, Lopetegui felt ready to discuss the post again. The timing of the World Cup offered a natural watershed, an opportunity to prepare both his team and himself: his first game will be on Boxing Day.

“Being a coach takes an awful lot out of you, in terms of pressure, family, intensity. You have to be able to learn to live with it, digest it, and take it all in your stride,” Lopetegui says. “And all these things you learn: how to take all the things that happen, filter them, and use them in a positive way.”

Julen Lopetegui after winning the Europa League with Sevilla in 2020.
Julen Lopetegui after winning the Europa League with Sevilla in 2020. Photograph: PA Wire/DPA/PA

It’s a lesson that starts young, sport built in. Now 91, José Antonio Lopetegui Aranguren was a harrijasotzailea, a champion Basque stone lifter who still lives in the home Lopetegui grew up in Asteasu, Gipuzkoa province. This is Spain’s smallest province, yet it has provided 20% of the first division’s coaches – Lopetegui, Jagoba Arrasate, Imanol Alguacil and Unai Emery – plus Mikel Arteta and Xabi Alonso. Juanma Lillo too is from there. “I couldn’t explain that, but it’s a place where sporting culture is important at all levels,” Lopetegui says, and that’s reflected in his family: his brother Joxean was also a professional pelota player.

The influences on him don’t end there for a coach who talks of constant lessons, endless evolution. At 19 he joined Real Madrid’s B team, where he would return as coach and director of the academy years later. He went to the 1994 World Cup as a player and took his first coaching steps with the national team, winning U19 and U21 European titles. And he worked with Johan Cruyff.

Barcelona was some school back then. Of the 27 players who were in Barcelona’s squad at the start of 1996-97 season, with Bobby Robson and his assistant José Mourinho taking over from Cruyff, only five have not become coaches. In April 2015 Lopetegui was one of four managers in the Champions League quarter-finals from that team, alongside Pep Guardiola, Laurent Blanc and Luis Enrique.

And then there’s England, the fascination and influence long-standing, not just lip service. Through a friend, Lopetegui found an English teacher with whom he has been taking classes for years now. Even before he was at Porto, the Premier League was on his mind, a place where he could make an impact. With Wolves, he had quite literally prepared for it.

Julen Lopetegui looks on as his two sisters are carried by his father, José Antonio.
Julen Lopetegui looks on as his two sisters are carried by his father, José Antonio. Photograph: Photographer: Mari, Paco/Paco Marí

“It’s true that I was very close to coaching Wolves a few years ago: they had a very ambitious, very nice project which we have since seen them put into place. Then the Spain job came along, but I have good memories of that era. I was collaborating with them at first without actually ending up joining formally,” he said. Now, at last, he can. They know exactly what kind of manager they are getting.

Lopetegui talks of football as a passion but also about preparation. About education too, for him as well as his charges. Watch his teams and the structure is clear, a team with a clarity of ideas, a defined methodology. “You have to explain why you do things, what it’s for,” he says. “You have to teach the players, structure the way they play through sessions so they understand the problems that can arise and what the solutions are. Players learn through repetition and spontaneous discovery but while you try to mechanise some movements it’s a fine line. If you go too far, you kill creativity. A player need the tools, but he has to be himself: he’s not a PlayStation player.”

“What you see [on the touchline] is the way I am. I’m trying to help the player and to give him information, solutions and encouragement, never to radio-control things from the bench. Games are prepared beforehand and then you have another period of quality intervention which is half-time, plus your changes. And the rest of the time … well, some chew gum, others do this or that, I live it my way. If I thought what I was doing was bad for the players, I wouldn’t do it.”

“How many times have you thought: ‘If I had only known this when I was 24, 25?’ The life of a coach is similar,” Lopetegui says. “Your experiences enrich you. You accumulate experiences that are going to help you do your job better, but there is something essential and that’s passion. If you keep the passion for your profession for 70 years and your head is right then why couldn’t you keep working? You don’t have to run when you’re a coach; what you do have to do constantly, is update your answers and be looking to improve everything. You have to be open to that idea that you can go on getting better day after day. That, to me, is what enables you to keep going in this profession. Well, for as long as they want you. When they don’t want you, then …”

Then someone else does, waiting for the right time. Better late than never.

Brighton sink 10-man Wolves thanks to late Pascal Gross strike | Premier League

Incoming manager Julen Lopetegui will be buoyed by the desire and determination offered by Wolves, who played with a one-man deficit for the entire second half, but he will know he is entering a relegation fight after their latest loss to Brighton.

It looked like Wolves would hold on for a point until Pascal Gross turned home inside the area with seven minutes to go, sending Brighton sixth in the process. Adam Lallana and man of the match Kaoru Mitoma scored either side of goals from Portuguese duo Goncalo Guedes and Rúben Neves but once Nélson Semedo was sent off just before the break, Wolves were up against it and the pressure was unrelenting.

Roberto De Zerbi likes to play with an element of risk, not something Wolves can afford in their perilous position. There was constant one-touch passing in and around the box, which should have led to a Solly March opener but the midfielder saw his shot deflected wide. Not that it mattered, when moments later Mitoma found Leandro Trossard, who drew Maximilian Kilman out of position, allowing Lallana to curl the ball into the top corner.

Prior to conceding in the 10th minute Wolves had brought little to the fixture, instead were chasing shadows in their own half. Brighton’s love of risk opened up space for Guedes on the right who was found by a clever Boubacar Traoré pass. The Portuguese international has struggled to settle in the Premier League since joining from Valencia but he proved why the club spent £27.5m to acquire his services by driving for the box before slipping the ball past Robert Sánchez for his first Wolves goal.

It was the boost Molineux needed. The toxic atmosphere that enveloped their most recent home fixture, a 4-0 defeat to Leicester, was replaced by cautious optimism created by a mixture of Lopetegui’s appointment and the intensity of the performance, even if the quality was lacking.

Referee Graham Scott shows the red card to Nélson Semedo of Wolves.
Referee Graham Scott shows the red card to Nélson Semedo of Wolves. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Wolves were holding on with Brighton looking capable of cutting through them at any point but the hosts got the chance to take the lead when Daniel Podence hit a cross into Lewis Dunk’s elbow from close range. The VAR took an age to see whether the ball made contact and if Podence was offside in the buildup. Eventually Graham Scott jogged over to the screen and pointed to the spot from where Neves lifted the ball into the top corner.

Despite the energy Wolves brought, they looked vulnerable in defence whenever Brighton attacked, summed up when Lallana worked to create space to dig out a cross on the edge of the box for Mitoma at the back post to head home after Semedo got stuck under the ball.

Semedo’s afternoon ended soon after in the extended first-half injury time when he was once again outwitted by Mitoma, who took down a long pass from Lewis Dunk to get past the defender and run through on goal, only for the Portuguese international to bundle him over on the edge of the box. Scott was left with no choice, not that the booing home fans agreed when the whistle went for the break.

The man disadvantage did not change much about the flow of the game; Brighton dominated possession and Wolves were forced to rely on rare counter-attacks to threaten. March made José Sá produce a fine save, after the goalkeeper played Wolves into trouble, Adam Webster sent two headers wide and Alexis Mac Allister’s free-kick was palmed away from the top corner. Wolves were hanging on.

The determination of the team invigorated the crowd, who almost got their reward when Neves played a smart free-kick down the side to Adama Traoré in the box but his vicious shot was tipped over the bar. It was the last of cheers from the home fans because Gross settled the match soon after to leave Wolves desperately hoping for the ‘new manager bounce’ that Brighton are currently enjoying.

Wolves appoint ‘No 1 choice’ Julen Lopetegui as new manager | Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves have announced the appointment of Julen Lopetegui as the club’s new manager.

The former Spain, Real Madrid and Sevilla head coach Lopetegui will take charge on 14 November, subject to being granted work permits, with Steve Davis remaining in interim charge ahead of Saturday’s home match against Brighton.

Wolves chairman Jeff Shi said on the club’s website: “Julen is a top coach, with excellent experience at an elite level of the game, and we are very pleased to have agreed a deal to bring him to Wolves.

“Since the very beginning, Julen has been our No 1 choice to manage Wolves, and we look forward to welcoming him and his team when they join us in the coming weeks.”

Wolves confirmed, if all the necessary paperwork is completed, Lopetegui will take over at Molineux following game against Arsenal, which is the last ahead of the World Cup break.

Davis, Wolves’ Under-18s coach, took temporary charge of the first team after Bruno Lage was sacked at the start of last month following a poor run of form.

Wolves remain in the bottom three after winning only one game since Lage left, against Nottingham Forest, with their only other point under Davis coming in last week’s 1-1 draw at Brentford.

Wolves confident of finally landing Julen Lopetegui as new manager | Wolverhampton Wanderers

Julen Lopetegui has reentered talks with Wolves and the Premier League club are quietly confident of a breakthrough with the Spaniard in the coming days. If talks progress, Wolves expect him to be in position by the beginning of the World Cup break.

The 56-year-old rejected a move to Molineux last month because of his father’s ill health but Wolves are hopeful this will be third time lucky having been encouraged by positive noises emerging from Lopetegui’s camp.

Lopetegui had been the first choice of the Wolves owner, Fosun, to become manager when the Chinese company bought the club in 2016 but he ended up taking the Spain job.

Wolves are still searching for a successor to Bruno Lage as head coach after his sacking at the beginning of October, following a poor start to the season.

Lopetegui – like the previous Wolves managers Lage and Nuno Espírito Santo – is a client of the super-agent Jorge Mendes, who is a big influence at the club, and the coach is keen on a move to England. Lopetegui won the Europa League with Sevilla in 2020 and has led them into the Champions League for three successive seasons.

Diego Costa sent off for head-butt as Brentford and Wolves share points | Premier League

Diego Costa was sent off for a head‑butt in stoppage time as Wolves battled to a draw at Brentford. A Rúben Neves cracker secured a point after Ben Mee had given the hosts the lead.

However the veteran striker Costa took exception to being marked by Mee and was shown a straight red card by Bobby Madley. The referee, officiating in the Premier League for the first time since he was sacked more than four years ago, checked his pitchside monitor before giving Costa his marching orders.

Costa will now serve a three‑match ban, meaning he will not feature again for Wolves until after the World Cup. “He’s apologised,” said Steve Davis, the club’s caretaker manager. “When emotions are high it is difficult to discuss things, but we’ll have a conversation with him next week. It will open up doors for other players or maybe we will play in a different way.”

It was an explosive end to a match that failed to ignite until the second half. Ivan Toney remains eager to impress the England manager, Gareth Southgate, before the World Cup. But the striker, who has scored six of Brentford’s last eight Premier League goals, passed up three decent chances in the opening period.

Toney missed his kick in front of goal after being teed up by Bryan Mbeumo and lost his footing racing on to Vitaly Janelt’s through ball. Mbeumo found his strike partner again late in the half but this time he trod on the ball and another opportunity went begging.

Thomas Frank explained that the striker had been ill during the week. “He was sick on Thursday, on Friday,” the Brentford manager said. “But it just shows his mentality that he still got on to the pitch.”

Brentford’s Ben Mee scores against Wolves.
Brentford’s Ben Mee scores against Wolves. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images/Reuters

Josh Dasilva curled a shot narrowly wide for Brentford, who lost Mathias Jensen to a calf injury after half an hour. Wolves were also forced into a change when Matheus Nunes suffered a shoulder injury but his replacement, João Moutinho, immediately volleyed just off target from a corner.

Costa, passed fit despite suffering a knock in training on Wednesday, then got on the end of a Daniel Podence cross but his header flew over. With the forwards all misfiring it was centre-back Mee who took matters into his own hands at the start of the second half. From a short corner, he acrobatically turned in a cross from Mbeumo.

“He’s probably playing the best football of his life,” said Frank. “He looks like he found his second youth. He’s a giant in there at the back, he gets a head on everything, and today he scored like Ronaldo back in the day. He deserved three points today.”

Mee’s finish was a spectacular goal which Toney would have been proud to score, but it was cancelled out 110 seconds later. Nélson Semedo collected the ball from Adama Traoré and squared to Neves, who crashed a superb first‑time effort past David Raya from the edge of the box.

Costa had the best chances to win it for the visitors when he twice wriggled his way into shooting positions but Raya made two fine saves. The Wolves striker’s frustration got the better of him when he shoved his head into Mee’s and he was sent off following a VAR check.

“A point was fair,” said Davis. “Both teams wanted to win the game and it was quite equally balanced. … Rúben’s was a great finish and we’ve seen him do that many times. You know where it’s going to go.”

The surprising history of successful caretaker managers in football | Football

Not many people beyond the staff at Aston Villa would have heard of Aaron Danks before he took over from Steven Gerrard last week. Following a dismal 3-0 defeat to Fulham, Danks was put in charge and had just two days to prepare for a meeting with another west London side. Villa’s 4-0 victory over Brentford was one of the most striking examples of a new-manager bounce in recent times.

Danks could barely contain his delight in his post-match press conference. “It’s been a really exciting experience,” he said. “I’m absolutely shattered and exhausted now because it’s been three really tough days.” His managerial reign was over the following day as Unai Emery was appointed as permanent manager at Villa Park. Danks can walk away with his head held high, with an impressive albeit brief record.

Maybe Danks drew inspiration from another Villa caretaker who took over the club back in 1982 when Ron Saunders jumped ship to local rivals Birmingham City. As Saunders had guided Villa to the First Division title the season before his departure was a seismic shock for the club. Villa’s chief scout, Tony Barton, was jettisoned into the managerial hot seat. Like Danks, Barton inherited a team that had just suffered a heavy defeat, 4-1 to Manchester United.

As Barton began his stint as boss, the champions were languishing in 15th place, nearer the relegation places than challenging for Europe. Barton led them on a decent run that included taking them to the semi-final of the European Cup. Once they had reached their first ever semi-final in a European competition, Barton was rewarded with a permanent contract and Villa progressed to the final, where they beat Bayern Munich 1-0 courtesy of a Peter Withe goal.

Aston Villa manager Tony Barton holds the European Cup, with captain Dennis Mortimer (left) and goalscorer Peter Withe in May 1982.
Aston Villa manager Tony Barton holds the European Cup, with captain Dennis Mortimer (left) and goalscorer Peter Withe in May 1982. Photograph: PA

Another caretaker manager who achieved European glory was Roberto di Matteo after he was placed in interim charge at Chelsea when André Villas-Boas was sacked in March 2012. Chelsea were a long way off the pace in the Premier League, but Di Matteo did achieve a remarkable cup double, beating Liverpool in the FA Cup final and winning the club’s first European Cup by overcoming Bayern Munich in the final on penalties. Di Matteo was duly given a two-year contract but lasted until November, when he was dismissed after a defeat to Juventus in the Champions League.

Danks’ short spell at Villa meant that, for a few days at least, there were three caretakers in charge of Premier League clubs. Gary O’Neil had the unenviable task of picking up a Bournemouth team who had just suffered the ignominy of a record-equalling Premier League defeat after losing 9-0 at Anfield in late August. Prior to their two narrow losses to Southampton and West Ham recently, Bournemouth had been on an unbeaten run of six matches, with two wins and four draws that catapulted the club into the top half of the table.

Steve Davis has not had quite the same positive impact at Wolves since stepping into Bruno Lage’s shoes. But after several managers, including Julen Lopetegui and Michael Beale, turned down the opportunity to take over, Davis and his assistant James Collins were given a vote of confidence by Wolves chairman Jeff Shi. “We have complete faith in their ability and leadership to continue their roles into the World Cup break and new year,” said the chairman.

Rúben Neves scores from the penalty spot in Wolves’ 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest.
Rúben Neves scores from the penalty spot in Wolves’ 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest. Photograph: Sam Bagnall/AMA/Getty

Mário Zagallo is undoubtedly the most successful caretaker manager in football history. In March 1970, the Brazilian football confederation decided to replace their manager, João Saldanha, only a few months before the World Cup was due to start in Mexico. Saldanha had led Brazil through qualifying with ease – they won all six matches while scoring 23 and conceding just two – so this was less to do with football and more to do with politics and a personality clash.

Saldanha had become a journalist after his playing days and he was not afraid of making enemies with his former colleagues. At one point, he sought to settle an argument with a former journalistic colleague with a loaded gun. The Brazilian confederation has assumed that appointing a journalist would make other writers less critical of the team but that only worked up to a point.

Saldanha’s communist beliefs did not go down well with the right-wing military dictator Emílio Garrastazu Médici, who wanted to use football to stoke up national pride. The manager also fell out with his assistant – who said he was impossible to work with – and dared to exclude Pelé from his team on the spurious claim that the player’s eyesight was deteriorating.

Zagallo, who as a player had won the World Cup in 1958 and 1962 alongside Pelé, was not first choice to replace Saldanha but he ended up getting the job. Zagallo had been the manager of club side Botafogo since 1966 and, although he helped the national side as a coach now and again, he had little experience of international football.

He did not hesitate to bring his former teammate Pelé back into the fold and also changed from Saldanha’s 4-2-4 formation, opting for a more fluid 4-5-1 that allowed the players a bit more freedom. Tostão, Gerson and Jairzinho revelled in the new shape and that 1970 Brazil team are widely regarded as the best World Cup side ever. Their imperious 4-1 triumph over Italy in the final is still viewed as the ultimate victory on an international stage. The success culminated in the fourth goal, which rubber-stamped a performance of grace and technique as Carlos Alberto finished an arrowed shot into the far corner.

Carlos Alberto scores Brazil’s fourth goal in their win over Italy in the 1970 World Cup final.
Carlos Alberto scores Brazil’s fourth goal in their win over Italy in the 1970 World Cup final. Photograph: Imago Sportfotodienst/PA

Brazil’s third title in four tournaments secured them the Jules Rimet trophy for good and, having become the first man to win the World Cup as both player and manager, Zagallo was made the permanent manager. With Danks already gone after one match at the helm, it remains to be seen how long Davis or O’Neil will last. They are unlikely to achieve as much as their illustrious predecessors, but sometimes a foot in the door is all a new boss needs.

Richard’s book World Cup Nuggets is out now.
Richard’s book World Cup Nuggets is out now.

Wolves never score many goals but now they are shipping them too | Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves’ issues in front of goal began when Raúl Jiménez sustained a skull fracture at Arsenal in November 2019. Before then, the Mexican had taken to the Premier League well, scoring 30 goals across his first two seasons in England. Yet as his goals dried up, so did Wolves’. Jiménez returned to the team eight months later, but he has not been as effective. Factor in the departures of Diogo Jota to Liverpool and Matt Doherty to Spurs, and it’s easy to see why Wolves have struggled in front of goal.

That being said, they still have players who can fire the team up the table. Pedro Neto, Daniel Podence and Adama Traoré are tricky wingers who can get the better of any marker, though Neto was out for 10 months last season with a knee injury that curtailed his development. Wolves also sought to rectify their striking issues in the summer by signing Sasa Kalajdzic from VfB Stuttgart for £15.5m. As luck would have it, the Austrian sustained a serious knee injury on his debut and is likely to miss the rest of the season.

Wolves cannot catch a break in attack but, while their struggles in front of goal are nothing new, their lack of resolve at the back most certainly is. Since their return to the Premier League in 2019, Wolves have conceded an average of just 1.2 goals per game – the sixth fewest of any club in the division. They have not been prolific going forward, but they have always made it hard for opponents.

This season they are conceding a worrying 1.5 goals per game. They have conceded 18 goals already this season – including four in a humbling defeat to Leicester at the weekend – giving them the seventh worst defensive record in the league. The difference from last season is striking; they conceded an 18th goal last season in late February, their 26th game of the campaign.

Changes in personnel at the back have not helped, with Conor Coady moving to Everton, Romain Saïss signing for Besiktas and Willy Boly departing for Nottingham Forest. They were not prolific last season but at least they had a solid backline to fall upon. With their defensive resolve gone, they are freefalling and currently sit in the relegation zone.

Wolves have scored just five goals in their 12 matches this season – the fewest of any club in the top four tiers. For context, Miguel Almirón has scored as many league goals this month as Wolves have scored this season. Erling Haaland has scored one more for City in the league this month (six) than Wolves have managed all season (five). Rúben Neves, a central midfielder who has never scored more than five Premier League goals in a season, is Wolves’ joint-top scorer, with two goals to his name. One of them was a penalty.

The only consolation is that Wolves are still creating chances. They have taken 145 shots this season, which ranks 10th in the league and is 14 more than Chelsea, but they are scoring from just 3.4% of their shots, the worst in the league. If their strikers find their shooting boots, it would only be a matter of time before Wolves pull away from danger but, until then, tightening up at the back remains a priority.

Bruno Lage’s decision to try a 4-2-3-1 setup did not help Wolves. His centre-backs were well drilled in a three-man backline and, while Wolves could do little over the departure of Saiss, who left after his contract expired in the summer, the decision to allow Coady to leave on loan and, to a lesser extent Boly, has exacerbated their defensive shortcomings.

Nathan Collins and Max Kilman are solid centre-backs for caretaker boss Steve Davis but Wolves are still short of experienced defenders. Toti has made just six Premier League appearances in his career, and Jonny and even Neves have both been used at the back this season. Their move away from a three-man backline has accentuated their struggles in defence, particularly considering that Collins had a spell on the sidelines following his dismissal against Manchester City last month, limiting chances to build an understanding with Kilman.

Davis now has to rectify issues at both ends of the pitch. At least Wolves are creating chances – their xG is the 11th best in the league – but they need to start finishing them. The goals should come, so Davis should be more worried about the lack of protection being given to his defence. In Neves and Joao Moutinho, Davis has two of the most technically gifted ball-playing central midfielders in the league but, in a 4-2-3-1 setup, their defensive shortcomings are capitalised upon. On the ball, the Portuguese pair are able to pick a pass for the full-backs and wingers to pry apart defences. It’s off the ball where the issues arise.

Wolves players are being dribbled past 7.3 times per game – the fifth highest in the Premier League this season. That issue is particularly problematic in midfield, where Moutinho (15) and Neves (14) are the third and seventh most dribbled past players in the league, respectively. When Wolves played with a three-man backline, this wasn’t such a big issue as they had three experienced centre-backs who could mop up. In the current setup, which largely sees Moutinho and Neves operate at the base of the midfield, Kilman and Collins are more exposed.

Hindsight is, of course, 20-20, but the decision to sell Leander Dendoncker to rivals Aston Villa is proving more questionable with each passing week given the Belgian’s effective work off the ball. Without a decent ball-winner in the middle of the park, the Wolves defence is under greater pressure. This is proving their downfall. For now, though, Davis has to make do with the players at his disposal, and needs to find a system that will make his team more solid.

Leicester out of bottom three after Tielemans kickstarts win over Wolves | Premier League

When Jamie Vardy tapped home from close range in the 79th minute, it was only Leicester’s fourth shot of the match but also their fourth goal.

Wolves dominated play and created a plethora of chances but never truly looked like scoring, to leave them with five goals in 12 games and an increasingly toxic atmosphere at Molineux.

Wolves-supporting caretaker manager Steve Davis will have been pained by chants of “we are fucking shit” from the crowd after Youri Tielemans, Harvey Barnes and James Maddison had shown that scoring was possible, further proved by Vardy.

Davis is, in theory, living his dream by managing his boyhood club but he will have preferred injured trio Raúl Jiménez, Sasa Kalajdzic and Pedro Neto to be available to give him a chance of succeeding. He will stay in charge of the first-team until 2023, a reward that looks less appealing by the week.

A promising Wolves start was quashed when Maddison’s free-kick from the left flank was headed partially clear by Jonny Otto – the man booked for the foul that led to the set piece – but straight to the waiting Tielemans who quickly did the mathematics on the angles and rifled the bouncing ball into the top corner.

Maddison ran over, gobsmacked by what his teammate had just achieved, a feeling felt throughout Molineux. The goal was against the run of play, Wolves had dominated possession before Tieleman’s incredible strike, and continued to do so after.

Matheus Nunes ran through on goal, forcing Danny Ward to come out and save, while Max Kilman flicked a corner inches over. Going behind is a huge problem for Wolves because they are yet to score twice in a single Premier League game this season. The crowd are fully aware of Wolves’ record and their apprehension once the deficit was established was understandable.

Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring the fourth goal
Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring the fourth goal as Leicester moved out of the relegation zone. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images/Reuters

If things were tense in the stands at that stage, they were exacerbated when Barnes and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall played a neat interchange inside the box, allowing the winger to wander into space, aided by Jonny slipping, and slot the ball across José Sá into the bottom corner.

Wolves are reliant on emergency signing Diego Costa for goals, a striker who had not played for nine months prior to joining on a free last month. Starting his third game in eight days, the 34-year-old’s fitness and form were being put under pressure. It is obvious what qualities he maintains from his peak: his clever feet and aggression are there but his inadequacies in the role outweighed the positives. Costa knows where he needs to be to reach passes but he does not have the speed of thought or foot to get there in time. When behind his frustration grew, whacking into the back of Wout Faes for no gain.

The Costa tribute act almost pulled one back when Kilman flicked a João Moutinho free-kick to the back post where the Brazilian was waiting to seemingly tap home from two yards, only to see his sidefooted effort repelled on the line by James Justin’s dangling boot at the last second.

Moments later a clever Costa dummy allowed Podence through but Ward’s outstretched left hand ensured the ball did not end up in the corner.

The rhythm of the game did not change after the break; Wolves dominated possession, spending much of their time in the final third. Ruben Neves curled a free-kick from the edge of the box half a yard wide and Costa headed a dangerous cross straight at Ward, one of 21 unsuccessful efforts from Wolves in 90 minutes, compounded by Maddison and Vardy extending the lead.

There were calls from the home supporters for the removal of Wolves technical director Scott Sellars. A failure to find a replacement for Bruno Lage and a paper thin squad has brought disquiet at Molineux. It is understandable considering they now sit joint on points with bottom club Nottingham Forest. And the worst could still be to come.

Wolves manager search goes on after QPR’s Michael Beale turns down job | Wolverhampton Wanderers

Michael Beale has rejected the chance to leave QPR for Wolves, forcing the Premier League club to continue their search for a manager. Wolves made an official approach for Beale on Thursday having identified him as their preferred candidate to succeed Bruno Lage after Julen Lopetegui turned down the job.

Beale has decided to stay at the club he joined in June, with QPR top of the Championship after Wednesday’s home win against Cardiff. The 42-year-old is in his first managerial post and said on Wednesday night: “If an offer comes in officially, you don’t have to take it. You have to weigh up everything. There are a lot of questions you need to get answers to.”

Beale went on to say it is “a dream of mine to manage in the Premier League. But is has to be the right opportunity, the right moment and the right club.”

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Wolves also considered bringing back Nuno Espírito Santo, who was keen on returning to the job he left in May 2021, but decided to go in a different direction. Steve Davis is likely to continue in caretaker charge for a fourth match for Sunday’s game at home to fellow strugglers Leicester.

Wolves could turn to the former Borussia Dortmund and Lyon manager Peter Bosz, whom they interviewed before pursuing Beale. The hierarchy also sounded out their former under-23s coach Rob Edwards and the former Olympiakos manager Pedro Martins. All three are out of work after being sacked this season.