A lack of preparation for Wolves makes them vulnerable when they head to Sheffield United in the Premier League on Monday, according to Andy Schooler...
"United didn’t score many goals last season – just 39 in 38 games – but they did grind out plenty of wins thanks to a solid defence which only conceded 39. There were 10 victories in total at Bramall Lane, five of which were by the 1-0 scoreline."
Sheffield United v Wolves
Monday September 14, 18:00
Live on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
Just 34 days after their 2019/20 season ended, Wolves will begin their new campaign.
The game has been pushed to the Monday night specifically to give the visitors that little bit more preparation time. It is definitely needed.
Wolves' four-day prep
Following their run to the Europa League quarter-finals, boss Nuno Espirito Santo gave his players three weeks off. That ended just before the international break so few of his regulars have been at the club's Compton Park training base over the past fortnight.
Essentially, Nuno has had four days with his full squad to prepare for what is likely to be a tough game. When he spoke of "issues and problems" the other day, he was probably understating.
One man Nuno won't have seen, at least on the field, is left-back Jonny, due to injury. Ruben Vinagre looks set to play instead - it would appear unlikely that new signing from Lyon, Marcal, will be pitched straight in given the lack of prep.
The same can be said about record signing Pablo Silva and Vitinha, yet another from their Portuguese transfer network, so it should be a familiar-looking side for the men from the Black Country.
Last season Wolves were on the fringe of the top-four race for long periods but too many draws held them back - a tally of 14 was a league-high. Six came in the immediate aftermath of a Europa game and they will hope the lack of European football this season will boost them domestically.
Another area that requires improvement is how they start games - Wolves won more points from losing positions than any side last term but they will need to prevent so many early deficits if they are to challenge the 'Big Six'.
One other area of struggle relevant to this game is their lack of goals away to the top sides.
While many will remember their 2-0 victory at Manchester City, the fact is that Wolves failed to score in five of their nine trips to their fellow top-half sides. Their visit to Bramall Lane in July was one of those - the hosts winning 1-0.
A similar result would be far from a surprise given Wolves' build up to this game.
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has had things rather easier.
Like all Premier League bosses, he will have been frustrated by the international window coming immediately before the opening game of the season, but prior to that he did manage to take his players to Scotland and then two further friendlies were played while the likes of John Egan, Enda Stevens and Sander Berge were way with their national teams.
The Blades stayed unbeaten across their four pre-season games (one was abandoned at half time), conceding only two goals.
Their main summer signing was keeper Aaron Ramsdale, rejoining the club from Bournemouth to replace last season's loanee, Dean Henderson.
Others have arrived, including Ethan Ampadu on loan from Chelsea, although again the new boys may have to wait their turn.
Like Wolves, United had top-four aspirations for much of 2019/20 - remarkable given their status as relegation favourites at the start - but their post-lockdown effort was poor and ended any such hopes.
They won just three of nine league matches upon the resumption, losing five. However, four of those defeats came away from home which suggests the loss of fans at Bramall Lane hasn't resulted in the loss of home advantage.
It's interesting to note that across the league as a whole, the home win percentage was actually higher post-lockdown than it was before COVID-19 arrived.
Hosts offer value
All things considered, the Blades look tempting in the match betting at 3.55 with Wolves a bit short for my liking at 2.466/4. The draw can be backed at 3.1511/5.
Perhaps the 5/4 with the draw-no-bet safety net is the way to go but instead I'll go with a 1-0 win for the hosts at 8.615/2 in the correct score market.
United didn't score many goals last season - just 39 in 38 games - but they did grind out plenty of wins thanks to a solid defence which only conceded 39. There were 10 victories in total at Bramall Lane, five of which were by the 1-0 scoreline.
Wolves could well be rusty here and that lack of goals away to the better teams has to be a concern to those looking to back them at a fairly short price.
Many will be expecting the hosts to struggle to back up last season's effort and that may well be the case, but this fixture looks a good one for them to have at this stage.
The goals markets also show how this is expected to be a low-scoring contest.
Under 2.5 is rarely as low as 1.491/2 but given United went under that figure in 71% of their games last season and Wolves 63%, it's not hard to see why that's the case.
The short price makes it acca fodder only and the narrow home win offers greater value.
Sheffield United are yet to lose on the opening day of a Premier League season, winning two and drawing two.
Andy Schooler's P/L 2019/20
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1pt Sheffield United to win 1-0 @ 8.615/2