Table-topping Wolves can confirm their return to the Premier League this weekend and the Old Gold will hope to do so in style when local rivals Birmingham visit Molineux on Sunday. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter.
"Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have sealed triumphs in 13 of their last 17 on home soil, notching at least twice in all bar six games at Molineux this season."
Wolves v Birmingham
Sunday 15th April, 12:00
Live on Sky Sports
Wolves a win away from promotion
Ruben Neves scored the goal of a lifetime as Wolves tightened their grip on the title on Wednesday night, comfortably beating Derby to move within two points of promotion to the Premier League. Fellow Portuguese star Diogo Jota also scored as the Championship leaders ran out 2-0 winners at Molineux.
Jota's neat early lob set the Old Gold on their way to a 15th home success of the season before Neves hammered a stunning 30-yard volley into the top corner shortly after the break to seal the victory. Nuno Espirito Santo's side now know they could secure a return if they beat local rivals Birmingham here or if second-placed Fulham fail to beat Brentford at home on Saturday.
Ivan Cavaleiro was recalled to the starting XI in midweek as Nuno reverted back to his favoured 3-4-3 system against Derby. With the hosts boasting a clean bill of health heading into the contest, the Molineux men have options to freshen the starting side up, should they wish.
Birmingham battling for survival
Birmingham remain entrenched in the Championship's relegation battle following a 3-1 midweek reverse at Bristol City. Having dominated and failed to secure maximum points against Burton last weekend, the Blues have been made to pay for a pair of profligate performances.
Garry Monk's men out-shot Burton 23-5 on home soil before winning the shot count 18-11 at Ashton Gate on Tuesday night with Jeremie Boga and Jacques Maghoma particularly wasteful. Lukas Jutkiewicz powered in his third goal in three games but Birmingham suffered their first loss in five (W3-D1-L1).
Despite the spirited display, Blues' 24th defeat of the campaign leaves them just three points above Barnsley and the relegation zone with Tykes boasting a game in-hand and superior goal difference. Che Adams is suspended but Monk is hopeful Sean Gallagher and Craig Gardner will be back in the selection mix.
Victories over top-six rivals Cardiff and Derby have all but confirmed Wolves [1.37] as Championship champions this season but the Old Gold are keen to finish the campaign with a flourish, particularly when welcoming old rivals Birmingham to Molineux on Sunday afternoon.
Wanderers have W5-D1-L0 during their past six outings and their Black Country record also commands maximum respect. Nuno Espirito Santo's side have sealed triumphs in 13 of their last 17 on home soil, notching at least twice in all bar six games at Molineux this season.
Wolves have W6-D2-L1 when entertaining bottom-half teams and the hot pre-match favourites should prove too good for their Second City opposition with Birmingham [9.60] having lost each of their last eight encounters with top-seven teams, failing to score in all but one of these games.
Garry Monk's outfit frustratingly shipped three goals from only four conceded on-target attempts in midweek but with 10 of their 12 matches against top-seven sides seeing fewer than three goals - including seven of their nine losses - it may back to back a 1-0 Wolves win at [5.40] and 2-0 if you can get [7.0].
Over 2.5 Goals [1.98] has provided regular profit for goal-hunters at Molineux under Nuno Espirito Santo's leadership. A healthy 13/21 (62%) of outings have featured at least three goals, including eight of 10 when entertaining bottom-half teams in the Black Country.
However, as already alluded, Birmingham have been reasonably robust operators on the road. The Blues have seen 14/21 (67%) games as guests produced no more than two strikes and Garry Monk's men are capable of keeping the contest competitive.
Mark's 2017/18 Profit/Loss
Staked: 154.00 pts
Returned: 170.00 pts
P/L: +16.00 pts