Beware the Wolves- scared Liverpool and terrifying Champion League rivals

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When Liverpool were finally breached 725 minutes after they last let in a league goal, the protagonists that ended that sequence were unsurprising.

Wolves were 1-0 down and on the break at Molineux, when Raul Jimenez picked up possession and motored towards goal.

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He tricked Andy Robertson with a feint, sprayed a pass out to Adama Traore wide on the right and continued his run into the box expecting supply from the winger.

He didn’t disappoint, clipping in a cross that Jimenez powerfully directed beyond Alisson.
It was the eighth time the pair successfully combined in the division and their link-up came closest to destroying Liverpool’s Invincibles dream and reminding the league leaders what defeat feels like.

Wolves were stellar, certainly the most challenging opponents Liverpool have encountered this season, which should concern Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham.
They are level on points with the latter two and six behind Frank Lampard’s men despite winning just one of their last five top-flight fixtures.

It seems strange to underscore the strengths of a team in such unfavourable form, but Wolves have all the tools to stalk and secure the final Champions League spot.

In Jimenez they have an outstanding marksman; intelligent, skilful and effective. He is the third player in the league to net 20 or more goals in all competitions after Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling, which is some company to keep.

Traore is a cocktail of trouble for defences – frightening pace, the desire to beat a marker, supreme physicality – leading to a “pretty much unplayable,” assessment from Jurgen Klopp.

“I have said it now a couple of times and it’s the truth,” the Liverpool manager offered. “He is not only a winger anymore, he now keeps the ball, holds the ball and sets up goals. That makes it difficult; the way they defend and then each ball you lose is 100 per cent a counter-attack.”

Nuno conceded that the 23-year-old is “unique, he has things nobody else has and he is trying to improve.”

Alisson had to produce a superb, one-handed low save to prevent Traore from finding the bottom corner to put Wolves ahead.

Then the one-man wrecking ball switched it up and showed some finesse to slip in Jimenez.
Liverpool’s No. 1 had to avert the danger again, before Roberto Firmino secured victory in the final 10 minutes.

Traore and Jimenez are leading lights in a Wolves side stocked with plenty of individual talent, but it’s their collective might that will most unsettle the teams they want to oust for fourth spot.

Nuno’s charges are well-drilled, have purpose in possession and are aggressive in trying to regain it. They have what so many clubs crave – a distinctive on-pitch identity.

There is total buy-in from the players, which translates into their tirelessness.
Wolves’ 2-1 defeat against the league leaders was their 40th game of the campaign, six fewer than they played in the whole of last season, but you’d never have guessed it.

They were energetic and intense from the first whistle to the final one. “You need to give them credit, they played great, they have good players,” Virgil van Dijk said. “They’re difficult to break down, created moments of danger and we had to dig deep.”

Klopp has regularly applauded Nuno’s process at Molineux and again highlighted the difficulty in preparing to combat his approach.

“Wolves are doing so unbelievably well, they are so different to everything else you face during the season,” he said. “They use the width of the pitch with Conor Coady’s long balls and when Traore gets the ball – problems.”

Wolves will line up against United at Old Trafford next, a club in a mess with a well-meaning manager who is well out of his depth. With a clarity of vision and varied on-pitch weaponry, they are the antidote to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

Wolves host Leicester City two weeks later, and by then, the shape of the Champions League contenders should be more discernible.

“This is the standard that we want,” the Wolves boss said of the performance against Liverpool. “Defensively, we were well-organised, we blocked a lot of situations, we created chances and we looked good on the ball.

“We’re going to have a couple of days off and we go again, start preparing for the next one against United. It’s going to be very tough, so we have to keep on going and grow stronger. We want to compete.”
If Wolves can replicate Thursday night’s display against United, it could spell a world of pain for a team that already have so many self-inflicted problems. Traore, the ball at his feet and space to shred through, would relish adding to their woes.

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