Everton will look to end a disappointing week on a high as they visit sixth-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday.
The Blues’ quest for European football is surely over after defeat at Tottenham and drawing with Southampton, leaving them in 11th place, six points off seventh and five behind eighth with four games left.
This will be the 55th game of the season for Wolves, who are still in the Europa League and whose 2019-20 campaign started 12 months ago.
RBM: Firstly, Wolves have only used 20 players in the Premier League this term. Having had a Europa League campaign to contend with as well, have we seen the effects of a lengthy season on a small squad in their last two defeats?
Dave: On paper, you’d probably say so but I don’t think so. I think Nuno has been extremely stubborn with the selection and the last two defeats aren’t down to fatigue.
Strangely, we only made one substitution on Wednesday vs Sheffield United; you’d probably think he’d make more if tiredness was an issue.
RBM: Now six points off Man Utd in fifth and seven behind Leicester in fourth, is Champions League qualification still a realistic aim with four games to go?
Dave: I think Champions League qualification through the league is now off the cards. It’s crazy that we were even in touching distance of that, but I just hope we can regain some sort of form to get a Europa League finish.
RBM: In a game as important as this in Wolves’ season, do you think the absence of a home crowd will have an impact?
Dave: Oh, for sure. Our fans and atmosphere are huge in our performances. Like many clubs, when the team isn’t quite getting the luck, the fans can be that 12th man to inspire the players.
I don’t think it has been too bad so far but we may see it become a bit more obvious if fans aren’t allowed into grounds again next season.
RBM: Where do you think Wolves have improved most on last season?
Dave: Grinding out results. Last year we had an extremely poor record against the bottom six but this season it is completely different. We’ve learnt to be patient against teams that sit deep and we’re finally learning to create and take opportunities.
A few of the wins since the restart, in particular against Bournemouth, were frustrating but we managed to get three points, whereas last season I don’t think we would have won that game.
RBM: Adama Traore could miss Sunday’s game after dislocating his shoulder. With six goals and nine assists, how much less of a threat are Wolves without him?
Dave: Adama has been pivotal this year. He has improved so much from last campaign and we have become very reliant on him this season.
At times he is crucial to our game; if Adama doesn’t perform, Wolves don’t perform. I think he should be okay for Sunday but he’s had a persistent shoulder issue which cropped up again midweek. Fingers crossed he plays and has a good game.
RBM: Which areas of the pitch should Everton look to exploit the most?
Dave: It’s difficult to pinpoint a certain weak area if I’m honest. Defensively we’ve been okay with no major issues but going forward we aren’t looking too great.
If Everton’s defence can just hold firm, I think that’ll be enough to get them at least something out of the game.
RBM: How do you expect Wolves to set up on Sunday?
Dave: Nuno has been so predictable with his line ups over the last couple of years and you can normally predict it name for name. However, I think he could spring a few surprises.
Wolves are in desperate need of a shake up going forward so we could see some different names in the line up such as Daniel Podence or Pedro Neto. He will play as standard with his five at the back but he could play with three in the middle or three up top.
RBM: Which of Wolves’ players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?
Dave: Like I previously mentioned, Adama on his day is almost impossible to defend against. You cannot allow him any space or time or he will punish you. Raul Jimenez has been disappointing recently but he’s due a goal and with his ratio this season, he is always one to look out for.
Diogo Jota has been frustrating since the restart and he hasn’t quite hit the ground running. He was fantastic before the break and is just waiting to hit that form again.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s game?
Dave: We need a win and I’ll back my boys for a 2-1 win.
Our thanks to Dave for his time.