- It’s fifth vs seventh in the EPL as races for Champions League places heats up
- Man Utd start the game against Wolves as plus-money favorites
- Wolves have conceded goals in 15 of their last 16
It’s been quite a week for Man United. On Tuesday night, some ‘fans’ attacked the house of the club’s chief executive, Ed Woodward for the perceived lack of direction from boardroom level, but then on Wednesday they stunned neighbors Man City with a fine 1-0 win at the Etihad in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal
While it still wasn’t enough to overturn City’s 3-1 lead from the first-leg, it was a significant moment and the Reds will be hoping to follow this up this weekend with a win over Wolves as they return to EPL action on Saturday, February 1, at 12:30 pm EST. Wolves though are levels on points with United in the league and so will be heading to Old Trafford for the win. Can they do it and offer some value to the punters? We’ll take a look.
Manchester Utd vs Wolves Odds
|Manchester Utd||-0.5 (+116)||+116||O 2.5 (+120)|
|Wolves||+0.5 (+136)||+240||U 2.5 (-140)|
All odds taken Jan. 29
Titanic Struggle for Fourth
It’s fifth versus seventh when the Red Devils and the Old Gold collide at the ‘Theater of Dreams’ and it’s very much all to play for with both teams tied on points and chasing that elusive fourth place that brings with it the prize of Champions League soccer.
But, despite their relatively healthy EPL placings, both teams need a win to maintain their challenge having suffered indifferent starts to 2020. Already this year, Wolves have been beaten by Liverpool and Watford in the EPL while United have lost to Arsenal, Liverpool, and Burnley.
Currently, the pair are joined by Tottenham in joint-fifth – separated only by goal difference – but significantly they remain six points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, a sizeable deficit with just 14 games left to play.
Pressure on United
This is Wolves’ 41st match of a season, which started with the Europa League qualifiers in July – this season has been a continuation of a thrilling journey, and a Champions League place would be one massive bonus.
For United, and in particular manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Champions League soccer is a must-have. For a club regarded as the third biggest in the world, the prospect of not participating in Europe’s elite club competition is unthinkable – one of the reason’s for the off-field unrest.
So, the pressure here is very much on United.
Already this year, Wolves have been beaten by Liverpool and Watford in the EPL while United have lost to Arsenal, Liverpool, and Burnley.
Manchester Utd vs Wolves Head-to-Head Stats
|5th||Position in EPL table||7th|
|9 / 24||Wins/games played||8 / 24|
Shortage of Clean Sheets All Round
The goals conceded line above tells a story of its own and it looks almost certain there will be goals on Saturday, with clean sheets something of a rarity for both. United, however, will look to the one they earned at the Etihad as what they can achieve when they’re solid and structured.
More of the same could see them turn around some pretty horrific EPL form where they have lost three of their last four league games, and they’ll draw inspiration from the two cup victories – they also beat Tranmere Rovers 6-0 in the FA Cup.
FT Tranmere Rovers 0-6 Man Utd
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 26, 2020
In terms of Solskjaer’s team selection, Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, and Marus Rashford are all unavailable to the United boss through injury but the rest of the squad emerged from the City game unscathed, so it will again be Anthony Martial leading the line with support from Mason Greenwood and Daniel James. For Wolves, Willy Boly returned from injury in the 2-1 home defeat by Liverpool and looks likely to line up in a back-three alongside Leander Dendoncker and Conor Coady.
Interestingly, since Wolves’ return to the EPL in 2018, including cup games, no away team has won this fixture and overall it’s been very even, with two wins for Wolves, one for United and three draws.
Old Trafford Advantage Decisive for United?
This one is tough to call. United will take great heart from the performance at the Etihad, and their clean sheet was only the second there this season – ironically, Wolves getting the other – but equally significant is that Wolves have since conceded goals in 15 of their 16 league games. For their part, United have failed to score only once in 19 matches at Old Trafford with the flip side being they have conceded in all but four of their 24 league games.
So, the stats tell us to expect goals and for it probably to be United who scores first – Wolves are bottom of the ‘first-half table – but the west Midlanders will rally and make life difficult for the United defense. I’m not sure they have another Etihad-style clean sheet in their locker, so I’m going for a score draw.
Pick: Manchester Utd and Wolves to draw (+210)