Strange things happen at Molineux - last time Everton were here Phil Neville got a shot on goal, and scored too! (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Wolverhampton Wanderers close out the home portion of the season with a game against Everton, having already been relegated and playing for pride. The seventh-placed Toffees on the their part are out of contention for European football and only have finishing ahead of Merseyside rivals Liverpool as their motivation for their second-last game of the season.
Wolves haven't won at home in the calendar year 2012, a stretch of nine games, and even the sacking of manager Mick McCarthy had done little to revitalize to the team with thirteen games left to go. Interim manager Terry Connor remains winless and would dearly love to change that statistic, especially with the chance that his temporary position might be made permanent playing next season in the League Championship. Captain Karl Henry earlier this week urged his team to attempt to end their atrocious run of form at Molineux in support of the caretaker boss.
Everton manager David Moyes meanwhile came to the defence of his backline stating that they had been unfairly targeted for blame earlier on in the season when the team was playing poorly as a whole. Since the transfer window though, the return of Steven Pienaar and the introduction of Nikica Jelavic in the strikeforce has completely revitalized Everton as an attacking team, and the goals have been flowing aplenty after long stretches of futility in front of the posts in the beginning of the season.
Team News -
Victor Anichebe's latest setback means he will be missing from the lineup once again, while captain Phil Neville and midfielder Darron Gibson could both be facing late fitness tests after picking up minor injuries. Leighton Baines remains out with a long term injury while Jack Rodwell's season is over after he he had a relapse of his thigh problem.
For Wolves, goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, defender Jody Craddock and midfielder Jamie O'Hara will all miss the game while defenders Sebastian Bassong and Kevin Foley, and winger Matt Jarvis will have fitness tests before the game.
Keys To The Game -
For Everton Moyes will have to decide whether he wants to use Phil Neville as anchor in the midfield alongside Darron Gibson which will allow Marouane Fellaini license to roam and press deep in support of Jelavic. Pienaar on the left and Leom Osman on the right will be charged with making the runs and feeding Jelavic. Should the injuries to Neville and Gibson prevent them from playing, then we might end up seeing Ross Barkley playing some solid minutes for the first time since early autumn.
While a few of the senior players on the Wolves squad have spoken out in favor of Connor, the performances on the pitch have been miserable and continue to be so thirteen games into his tenure. His side has shown much more fortitude when playing away with a couple of stirring fightbacks to hold Swansea City 4-4 and a scoreless draw with Sunderland before that. Their 4-4-1-1 is similar to Everton's with David Edwards playing behind Steven Fletcher in front, and Michael Kightly, Henry, David Davis and Jarvis strung out across the midfield.
Match Facts -
- Everton are unbeaten in their last five games against Wolves, winning 2-1 at Goodison earlier this season.
- Leon Osman scored his first Everton goal on debut against the Wolves at Molineux, eight years ago.
- 34% of Everton's goals have come in the last fifteen minutes of the game, a Premiership high.
- Wolves have lost nine straight at home; Sunderland hold the record with ten losses (Between Jan '03 and Aug '05)
- The Wolves are the only team to have not scored in the opening fifteen minutes of the game this year.
- Wolves have conceded 18% of their goals in the first fifteen minutes, a League high.