The Wolverhampton Wanderers finished in a respectable seventh-place last season, their first back in the English Premier League after six years in the second tier. The Wolves now have a chance to leapfrog into fifth on the table if they can defeat back-to-back defending champions Manchester City on Friday. The match kicks off what Wolves Manager Nuno Espirito Santo calls an "absurd" holiday schedule, as quoted by the BBC.
The Wolves will play again just 45 hours later, against this season's likely champions, undefeated Liverpool. For both teams, Friday's clash is the first of three league matches in six days, culminating in New Year's Day fixtures. But the pressure doesn't let up with the change of the calendar. Just three days after that, on January 4, both Wolves and City have third-round FA Cup matches lined up.
"It's going to be very tough, I think all of the managers are concerned and rightly so," Santo said at a Thursday press conference. "The schedule doesn't make sense, it's absurd." The Portuguese manager, who took over the Wolves after a move from Porto following the 2016-2017 season, added that his team will simply be trying to "survive" the onslaught of games that fall between Christmas and the first week of the new year.
The Wolves have already defeated the defending champs once this season, taking a 2-0 victory back in October at the Etihad.
Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola previews the match in the video below.Despite the previous victory over Manchester City, oddsmakers have the Wolves as heavy underdogs. Their odds are set at 13-2 to win at Molineux in the post-Boxing Day match. City are installed as favorites at 2-5, with odds that the match will finish drawn at 4-1, according to Soccer Times.
If Santo's side does manage to pull off the upset, the win would complete the Wolves' first double against Manchester City in 58 years. The last time Wolverhampton defeated City twice in one season came in the 1960-1961 campaign. They have also been dominant at home. Before losing to Tottenham on December 15, the Wolves had lost only once in 16 Molineux fixtures.
Manchester City will have striker Sergio Aguero back in the lineup, or at least available off the bench, for the second straight game after missing four matches with a thigh injury, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Both teams are coming off of victories over the weekend, with the Wolves taking a 2-1 decision away to Norwich City, while third-place Manchester City scored a solid win over second-place Leicester City, 3-1 at home.
Guardiola's team will be going for their third Premier League win in a row, after they defeated Arsenal on December 15. The loss effectively ended the tenure of Gunners interim boss Freddie Ljungberg, who was then replaced by Guardiola's own assistant, Mikel Arteta.