Molineux will be no place for the faint hearted on Sunday with the threat of relegation in the air as Wolves host West Bromwich Albion.In-form West Brom have climbed to 11th after a late-season revival masterminded by new manager Roy Hodgson.
But Mick McCarthy’s Wolves have picked up just two points from their last five matches and are second from bottom.
And no one appreciates the importance of this Black Country derby more than Wolves defender Stephen Ward.
“At this stage of the season, with three games to go, we have to look at every game as a must-win,” Ward said.
“People are saying that Sunday (1-1 at Birmingham) was a must-win, but we have to take a point and move on.”
“Because it is so tight a point might keep you in there, but three points would be invaluable and that’s what we’ll be looking to get.”
Despite West Brom’s position of safety, Ward is under no illusions about the difficulty of Sunday’s task.
“I think it’s different if you’re playing a team that’s safe and might have one eye on the summer, but when it’s your local rivals they won’t want to lose to us,” Ward said.
“They’ll probably want to inflict a bit of pain on our fans and will be taking it just as seriously as we will. They’ll want to knock us out of the league.”
Two of Wolves’ three remaining matches are at Molineux and Ward believes that could be a key factor in securing their survival.
“If you look at our home form it’s been as good as anyone in the bottom half of the table,” he said.
“If we can continue that for the next couple of weeks and take something from our home games, then there’s no reason why we won’t pick up enough points.”
“This is probably the biggest derby for a while, and it’s probably bigger for us than it is for them.”
One of the key tactical questions will be how Wolves can stop West Brom’s in-form Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie, who has scored 14 league goals this season.
Assistant boss Michael Appleton believes this is only the start for Odemwingie.
“First and foremost, he needs to keep his feet on the ground, which I’m sure he will do because the gaffer, myself and the rest of the coaching staff will make sure of it,” said Appleton.
“Peter’s done really well this year but I expect him to push on because I think he can do even better.”
“I think he can save a lot of energy by sticking to what we’ve asked him to do and I’m sure that will improve and improve.”
Wolves comeback man Michael Mancienne is expected to be given the job of taming Odemwingie.
Mancienne returned to the heart of Wolves’ defence for the first time in a league game since September 2009 in Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Birmingham.
And boss Mick McCarthy admitted the pacy Mancienne’s mainly positive return offered him food for thought for dealing with Odemwingie’s pace, despite being at fault for Sebastian Larsson’s equaliser.
“Yes of course – Mancienne has all of those attributes and he can handle those types of players,” McCarthy said.