New Wolves head coach Julen Lopetegui is treating his first Premier League game in charge as a “final” as he takes his side to fellow strugglers Everton on Boxing Day.
Lopetegui will attempt to become the first Wolves boss to win his maiden top-flight game in the club’s history (D3 L7 to date) after taking over a side mired at the foot of the table with 10 points.
Everton are just four points better off following a run of one win in seven league games, and Lopetegui is aware of the significance of Monday’s fixture.
“For me, the only aim is the next match,” he said. “We have to put the focus here, because it’s the only way that I know to build something good and we want to build it. We must not think about the table now. The next three points, they are key for us and we have to arrive at this match like a final. We have to put this feeling in each match and not think about a lot of things.
“I think the fans of the club and the players, they know and they are aware of what our situation is. We have to accept this, but at the same time, we want to change it.”
Lopetegui’s Everton counterpart, Frank Lampard, entered the World Cup break under pressure after overseeing the Toffees’ slide down the table, and the club’s fans voiced their discontent after a 3-0 loss at Bournemouth last time out.
Lampard, however, feels the Goodison Park crowd will be a factor in turning Everton’s form around.
“For sure, in my time here, we have had some incredible results at Goodison,” he said. “That’s been because of the playing performances and fans joining in, creating this atmosphere that Goodison has had throughout history, so it’s a big deal for us. It gives us strength and confidence.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Everton – Alex Iwobi
Iwobi – who leads the way for chances created (27), through balls (seven) and assists (five) at Everton this season – has scored more Premier League goals against Wolves (three) than any other opponent. The Nigerian has netted in three of his last four in the competition against them.
Wolves – Raul Jimenez
No Wolves player has scored more than two non-penalty Premier League goals this season, and few are in need of a fresh start more than Jimenez. Having spent long periods of the campaign on the sidelines, Jimenez scored the first goal of the Lopetegui era in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, and he has netted in five of his last six games against the Toffees.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Everton have lost their last two Premier League games against Wolves, as many as they had in their previous 12 (W5 D5). They last lost more consecutively against them between 1957 and 1960 (a run of five).
– This is the fifth time Everton and Wolves are facing off in a league match on Boxing Day, with the other four all taking place at Molineux Stadium between 1901 and 1974. Wolves have won three of the previous four fixtures, losing only in 1904.
– Wolves are winless in their last seven top-flight Boxing Day games (D2 L5) since beating Birmingham 2-1 in 1978. This is their first fixture on December 26 since the 2018-19 campaign (1-1 v Fulham).
– Everton have won just one of their last seven league games (D1 L5), failing to score in five of their last six. Indeed, the Toffees have failed to score in 13 Premier League games since Lampard’s first game in charge in February, with only opponents Wolves (14) doing so more often in that time.
– This will be new Wolves boss Lopetegui’s first ever Premier League game in charge, the 12th different Spanish manager to feature in the competition. Just one of the previous 11 has lost their first game, with Unai Emery losing 2-0 to Manchester City with Arsenal in August 2018.