Story so far
Wolverhampton Wanderers are currently top of the Championship, 4 points clear of second and 10 points clear of third. They have a +24 GD and have scored the most goals in the league. With an impressive record of 15 wins, 2 draws and 3 defeats so far this season, Nuno Espírito Santo and his team look incredibly dangerous, and Wolves really are living up to their pre-season billing as promotion favourites.
Most impressive results so far this season for Wolves? The 1-0 victory on the opening day against Boro really set the tone while a 2-0 away win at Norwich, a 5-1 mauling of Bolton and an impressive 4-0 win at home to Leeds really turned heads.
Basically, Wolves are class, they’re riding a six game winning streak, and look a canny bet for promotion back to the big time. So, it’s going to be tricky one, that’s for sure.
Last time out
On Monday night in front of the television cameras Wolves faced a difficult test against local rivals Birmingham City at St. Andrews. Wolves cruised through the game and would probably have won by more had it not been for the impressive David Stockdale. Birmingham did not register a shot on target during the game, and if truth be told Wolves should have won by a bigger margin.
Leo Bonatini scored the important goal on eight minutes - though the referee did need the use of goal line technology to confirm if the ball had crossed the line. The 1-0 victory wasn’t the big scoreline many fans had expected, but it was another valuable three points in the hunt for promotion.
Pretty much every player in the Wolves squad could be considered to be a dangerman, such is their depth. Portugal international Ruben Neves has taken a lot of praise this season - and rightly so. Diogo Jota has also been impressive this campaign, with nine goals and four assists from midfield.
Leo Bonatini gets my nod though as this week’s dangerman. The Brazilian, on loan from Saudi club Al-Hilal, has 12 goals already this season and 5 assists. Bonatini just has a grace on the pitch that makes him look like a bonafide star.
It will be no surprise if he ends up at one of Europe's big clubs come the summer should he keep producing at the rate he has this season, and 6 goals in his last 5 games makes scary reading for us Sunderland fans too. I do not fancy our defence being able to cope against this lad’s ability.
Nuno Espírito Santo had a decorated career during his 18 years as a professional. He was part of the FC Porto squad that won the Champions League in 2004 and won countless honours during his two spells at the Portuguese giants.
Since retiring in 2010, Nuno has enjoyed a fairly successful managerial career that has seen him take charge of Rio Ave, FC Porto and Valencia. In his 213 games as manager he has enjoyed a win rate of over 50% - not too shabby!
For the third time this season we get to enjoy the refereeing of Jeremy Simpson. He presided over two Sunderland defeats earlier in the campaign - one of which came at the hands of Middlesbrough.
So far this season he has handed out 83 yellows and four reds in 20 games - though last weekend he officiated the Preston-QPR game and sent off two players.
Simpson has also taken charge of two Wolves games this year - both of which were victories for the Midlands club.
Do we even need it this week? Wolves are the best team in the league and we are sat in the relegation zone. Wolves score goals and can defend. Wolves are blistering in attack - we have the slowest defence in the league.
Wolves’ main weaknesses seem to be defending set pieces; however, Sunderland are generally woeful at them, so I doubt that we can utilise that weakness.
My main fear for this game is that when we concede, Wolves will rip us apart on the counter attack. If you look at their pace and quality, it is inevitable that we will get caught out at times throughout the game.
But if I had to pinpoint a way of winning this game? Keep it tight and play smart - easier said than done, I know.
Wolves will be expecting to win this weekend comfortably - their fans will be expecting to win by at least three goals. But if we can keep Wolves quiet, play intelligently with the ball and not take unnecessary risks then frustration will creep into the home side’s actions and we might just be able to capitalise. Ha’way the Lads!