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Wolves v Leeds Preview: Bruno Lage's preparing for a new press against Leeds

Bruno Lage is expecting a tough and intense game when relegation-threatened Leeds United arrive at Molinuex tonight.

Raul Jimenez against Leeds
Raul Jimenez against Leeds

An injury time penalty for the hosts in the reverse fixture rescued Leeds a point – in a game Wolves would have been lucky to win.

Then managed by Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds’ high and aggressive press stopped Wolves from getting the ball down and picking teams off as they have done so frequently this season.

Although Lage believes they have adapted their style under new boss Jesse Marsch, he expects Wolves will still need to be prepared for pressing tactics.

“They have changed some things,” Lage said.

“When they are there to press they wait a little bit. They are more patient and wait for the opponent and then they start to run and press. They are more patient but they come and run a lot to press high. Offensively they are in the same style. Some players change a little bit in their position but they have a good dynamic, they want to have the ball and are solid in the back four. They have four amazing strikers and are a strong opponent.

“They will come to press us and we need to have confidence and courage to have the ball.

“That’s the pressure I want. Have the ball, keep the ball with patience. They come to press and we need to find our spaces. We need to manage the ball when they come in the duels and one against one.

“The key point is how long we can keep the ball against a team who can press high like Leeds.”

Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper are back in contention for the trip to Molineux after overcoming injuries – but Lage insists he is pleased to face the best version of Leeds.

“It’s not bad news for me because I want to play against the best. That’s the motivation for my players,” he added. “Phillips is a good player but I have Joao (Moutinho) and Ruben (Neves) who are also doing very well. The pressure is to play the way we play against these top players. It’s a big pleasure to see Phillips back because he is a top player also.”

Wolves do have some injury concerns with Nelson Semedo, Ki-Jana Hoever and Pedro Neto all set to miss the fixture. Semedo has been out since the trip to Arsenal in late February when he suffered a hamstring injury, while Hoever has also been struggling with a hamstring strain he picked up against Crystal Palace earlier this month.

Neto missed the win over Everton last week after picking up an impact injury to the top of his foot, which he was unable to shake off in time to face the Merseyside club.

Although the knock is not believed to be serious, Lage confirmed he will also miss the game tonight. Both Neto and Semedo are expected to return after the international break, while Hoever will be an additional couple weeks away.

Hwang Hee-chan came off with an injury against Everton, but he is fit to face Leeds after it was confirmed to be a dead leg.

Opposition view

Head coach Jesse Marsch thinks Leeds’ Premier League survival bid hinges on the successful returns of Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper.

Midfield linchpin Phillips and skipper Cooper are back in contention for tonight’s game at Wolves, while Bamford made his first start since September in Sunday’s 2-1 win against Norwich.

Phillips and Cooper have both missed Leeds’ last 14 league games and Marsch said: “It’s a big boost for them personally, but also for the presence they have in our team.

“It’s a big positive momentum swing for our group. They’re both quality players and great personalities and will make us stronger and stronger.

“Even when I first came I knew getting the three main guys back to full health was going to really dictate our success.

“We have a good group, but you need your best players on the pitch.”

Marsch got his first win at the third attempt on Sunday thanks to Joe Gelhardt’s stoppage-time winner against Norwich.

It kept Leeds four points above the relegation zone and they now head to Molineux aiming for back-to-back wins for the first time this season. Bamford, restricted to just eight league appearances this season due to successive ankle, hip and foot injuries, was withdrawn at half-time against Norwich as a precaution and is fit to face Wolves.

Phillips and Cooper have both missed out through hamstring injuries and during their absence Leeds have slipped to 10 defeats.

Marsch said: “We’ll see what the plan will be for their minutes (at Wolves), but just having them back in training is big.

“We always had a goal of ‘can we get those guys back to top fitness and sharp after the international break?’. With Pat we were a little ahead of schedule.

“With Liam and Kalvin we’re on schedule, but we have more work to do.

“(Phillips) had a really, really strong training session (on Wednesday), as did Liam.

“They played with intensity with the ideas we’re trying to implement, with and without the ball, so I’m really excited to get them on the pitch.”

England international Phillips has been sorely missed, while he continues to be linked with potential moves to some of Europe’s leading clubs.

Marsch added: “I haven’t spent any time with anyone talking about long-term futures, only about living in the moment and what’s important for every day.

“Those conversations can be had down the road once we establish a few more things. For me it’s been about prioritising what’s important.

“Those conversations are more for the club, but I can always help, and of course I would love to keep guys like Kalvin, Patrick and Raphinha here as long as possible.”

Sunday match-winner Gelhardt and Rodrigo are nursing minor niggles and will be monitored before Friday night’s kick-off.

Marsch confirmed Junior Firpo could be out for up to five weeks due to the knee injury he sustained in the recent home defeat to Aston Villa.

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