This is the Wolves predicted lineup for the Black County Derby against West Bromwich Albion on January 28 in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup at The Hawthorns. Wolves’ General Manager for Football Operations, Matt Wild, confirmed the availability of sensational left-back, Rayan Ait-Nouri, who returns from the African Cup of Nations after his Algerian team were knocked out in the group stage.

Wolves Predicted Lineup vs West Bromwich Albion

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How Wolves Have Lined-up Recently

Rotation is uncommon in Gary O’Neil’s team and tends to be forced rather than tactical.

Absentees Mario Lemina and Pedro Neto have returned to the starting eleven and both started in the team’s last outing, a disciplined and professional 0-0 draw at the Amex against an in-form Brighton side.

Craig Dawson has also returned from a knee injury and started at the Amex, so despite Santiago Bueno’s assured performances, the veteran English centre-back is likely to resume his duties at the heart of the defence.

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Tommy Doyle has cemented a starting spot for the club in the centre of the park, impressing Molineux crowds with his smart, progressive passing and mobility in transitions.

Matt Doherty has kept Ait-Nouri’s place at left back for a number of matches, with the experienced Irishman making a laudable habit of cutting inside on transitions and popping up in unlikely spots to contribute to attacking movements.

Wild confirmed: “Rayan will be back with us the latter part of this week to be involved on Sunday … I think he’ll be itching to get back.”

Wolves Recent Form and Tactics

The West Midlands club have had patchy away form with three losses in their last five trips. However, their last away loss (3-0 against West Ham) came on December 17, and a steely draw at the Amex last week suggests that The Wanderers might have turned a corner. Home form has been far more impressive, so the club are clearly not in a rut. Big wins against Brentford in the league and the cup, and a 3-0 drubbing of Everton show that this side has goals in them.

The manager gave a Sky Sports News masterclass in October saying: “Systems are not so relevant anymore,” and that “formations are just a starting point.” Although The Athletic ran an article calling the team ‘formationless’ that might be an oversimplification of how the South London born coach sets up his side.

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Wolves normally play with five defenders without the ball, pushing the full-backs up and inside as supporting central midfielders when they do have the ball, and stretching the three centre-backs across the width of the pitch. On the break, full-backs stay wide and operate like wingers, as the wide forwards cut inside and attack centrally.

It is not a team with much natural width, with Neto as the only real wide player, so attempts to stretch have to be cobbled together with in a fairly ‘square pegs in round holes’ fashion, but it often pays dividends.

Given the enormity of this fixture to locals, expect the side to field a strong starting eleven and adopt similar tactics to the Premier League.

Notable Absences

Hee-Chan Hwang remains at the Asian Cup, although he is yet to play for his national side of South Korea due to an injury. Boubacar Traore’s Mali have topped their African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group, so the young midfielder will remain in Cote d’Ivoire for the time being. Brazilian midfielder, Joao Gomes remains suspended due to a straight red picked up in the first leg of an FA Cup Third Round tie against Brentford, but will be available for the next league game.

Fortunately for the Black Country club, there are no outstanding injuries, and Ait-Nouri’s return from the AFCON will add to O’Neil’s options.

Predicted Lineup

Jose Sa – GK

Rayan Ait-Nouri – LB

Toti Gomes – CB

Max Kilman – CB

Craig Dawson – CB

Nelson Semedo – RB

Tommy Doyle – CM

Mario Lemina – CM

Pablo Sarabia – CAM

Pedro Neto – FW

Matheus Cunha – FW

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