Nuno Espírito Santo

The Lowdown: Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolves

Leicester City travel to Molineux Stadium on Sunday to face Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League (2pm kick-off).

Nuno Espírito Santo’s side ended an eight-game winless run earlier this week with a 2-1 home success over Arsenal, leaving the West Midlands side 14th in the top-flight standings.

Ahead of Sunday's clash, takes a closer look at Wolves' manager, squad, form, trophy cabinet and more...

The manager

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Nuno Espírito Santo
Nuno Espírito Santo

Former Porto manager Nuno Espírito Santo has transformed Wolves into an impressive Premier League outfit.

A former goalkeeper for Vitória Guimarães – the club City right-back Ricardo Pereira used to play for – Nuno Espírito Santo’s career as a professional footballer saw him play in Portugal, Spain and Russia.

His first managerial appointment saw him take charge of Portuguese outfit Rio Ave, before season-long spells at Spanish outfit Valencia and former club Porto led to a maiden job in England with Wolves.

During his first season in charge, the 45-year-old guided the West Midlands outfit to Premier League promotion at the first time of asking as his side accumulated 99 points to win the Championship.

While Wolves did not record a victory during their first three Premier League games in 2018/19 – a run which included a 2-0 defeat by City – four wins and two draws against Manchester United and Burnley saw them concede only one goal in six outings.

They eventually went on to finish seventh in the table, with season highlights including memorable triumphs over Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester United in the Premier League and Emirates FA Cup.

That led to a UEFA Europa League campaign last term, their first in continental competition since 1980/81.

It lasted for a record 383 days as they came through the qualifiers and group stage before being knocked out by eventual winners, Sevilla in a modified, one-leg quarter-final tie. Nevertheless, Espirito Santo had guided Wolves to their best European performance since reaching the UEFA Cup Final in 1972.

Despite a second successive seventh-place finish in the Premier League in 2019/20, with an improved points tally of 59, Wolves were denied another season of Europa League football due to eighth-place Arsenal winning the FA Cup.

The team

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João Moutinho
João Moutinho

Portugal midfielder João Moutinho celebrates his effort against Arsenal.

A combination of flamboyant attackers and gifted midfielders is often complimented with a back five including two wing-backs and three centre-backs, which operates in front of reliable Portugal international goalkeeper Rui Patrício, who has kept five clean sheets so far in 2020/21.

Wolves added to their Portuguese contingent in the summer with the acquisitions of FC Porto forward Fábio Silva and FC Barcelona right-back Nélson Semedo, for reported fees of £36M and £27M respectively.

Full-backs Ki-Jana Hoever (Liverpool) and Marçal (Lyon) also joined Espírito Santo's continental squad ahead of the new season.

Departing Molineux, meanwhile, were wingers Diogo Jota - who made the switch to Liverpool for a reported £40M fee - and Hélder Costa, who made his loan move to Leeds United a permanent one. 

Elsewhere, dependable right-back Matt Doherty was snapped up by a league rival, with the 28-year-old Republic of Ireland international signing for Tottenham Hotspur.

Wolves' talismanic Mexican forward Raúl Jiménez featured in every Premier League fixture last season, scoring 17 goals and registering six assists.

In midfield, the experienced João Moutinho also had six assists to his name in 2018/19, often playing alongside his compatriot, Rúben Neves. Spanish winger Adam Traore topped the charts for assists last term, however, with nine. 

Form guide

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Rúben Neves
Rúben Neves

Rúben Neves has netted three goals in all competitions this season.

Wolves ended an eight-game winless run in the Premier League with a 2-1 triumph over nine-man Arsenal on Tuesday, with Rúben Neves and João Moutinho finding the net at Molineux.

Since a success by the same scoreline over Chelsea on 15 December, Nuno Espírito Santo's men were denied victory by Burnley (1-2), Tottenham Hotspur (1-1), Manchester United (0-1), Brighton & Hove Albion (3-3), Everton (1-2), West Bromwich Albion (2-3), Chelsea (0-0) and Crystal Palace (0-1).

They did, however, enjoy victories over Palace (1-0) and Chorley (1-0) in the Emirates FA Cup during that spell.

Wolves began the season, meanwhile, with a 2-0 victory over Sheffield United in September, before back-to-back defeats in games against Manchester City and West Ham United.

Espírito Santo's side then went through October unbeaten as a single goal was enough to see off both Fulham and Leeds United, before the Eagles were put to the sword at Molineux, thanks to strikes from Rayan Aït-Nouri and Daniel Podence.

A 1-1 draw with Newcastle United, meanwhile, was the only game that Wolves failed to pick up maximum points during October. 

November began with a 1-0 defeat at Leicester, before a 1-1 home draw with Southampton, a 2-1 win at Arsenal and a 4-0 reverse to Liverpool at Anfield, followed by a 1-0 loss at Molineux against Aston Villa.

Previous encounters

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

A spot-kick from Jamie Vardy was enough for the Foxes to seal victory the last time the two sides met.

A first-half penalty from Jamie Vardy was enough for Leicester to secure a 1-0 triumph over Wolves at King Power Stadium on 8 November, although City's No.9 was denied a second from the spot by Rui Patrício.

Nothing could separate the two sides when they met in the league last season, however, as both fixtures ended in goalless draws.

Leicester had previously enjoyed a five-year winning streak over Wolves, though there was a sizeable gap between the last Championship meeting in 2013, which the Foxes won 2-1, and the first Premier League clash in August 2018, which finished 2-0.

A memorable meeting from recent seasons was the 4-3 thriller at Molineux on 19 January 2019. Wes Morgan looked to have handed City a late point when he equalised in the 87th minute, only for Diogo Jota to complete his hat-trick by scoring an injury-time winner.

Wolves have the upper hand over Leicester in the all-time head-to-head record, winning 43 of 116 matches, compared to City's 39 successes.

Trophy cabinet 

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Conor Coady
Conor Coady

Current captain Conor Coady lifts the Championship trophy alongside Danny Batth at the end of the 2017/18 season.

Wolves have been named champions of England on three occasions – in 1954, 1958 and 1959 and have finished runners-up a further five times.

They have won all of England’s top four tiers at least once and have also experienced cup success, lifting the FA Cup four times and the League Cup on two occasions.

Further accolades include four Charity Shields, now the Community Shield – three of which were shared with Portsmouth, West Bromwich Albion and Burnley.

On the European front, they were beaten 3-2 over two legs in the final of the 1972 UEFA Cup by a Tottenham side managed by the much-respected Bill Nicholson.

The stadium

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Molineux Stadium
Molineux Stadium

Molineux has been renovated several times over the years, most recently in 2012.

Molineux Stadium has been the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers since 1889 and, following a series of significant developments during three different decades, has a capacity of approximately 31,500.

In February 2019, the club revealed plans for two separate phases of stadium expansion, with the first increasing Molineux’s capacity by 5,500, while a long-term target is to reach a capacity of 45,000-46,000.

Upcoming fixtures

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João Moutinho
João Moutinho

João Moutinho netted for Wolves in their 2-1 victory over Arsenal.

After tackling the Foxes at Molineux on Sunday, Southampton are the visitors in the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup on Thursday (5:30pm kick-off).

They then travel to St. Mary's Stadium for a second clash with Ralph Hasenhüttl's Saints, in the Premier League, on 14 February (12pm kick-off).

Leeds head to the West Midlands on 19 February (8pm kick-off), before Wolves go to St. James' Park to face Newcastle United on 27 February (8pm kick-off).

All times GMT.

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