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Wolves: Lopetegui must unleash Mario Lemina vs Liverpool

Wolverhampton Wanderers must be wishing they hired Julen Lopetegui quicker than they did, with the 56-year-old losing just once in his first seven matches in charge.

The Molineux outfit’s Premier League form has led them to climb out of the relegation zone, and with some solid momentum behind them, survival will now be an expectation rather than a hope.

They take on Liverpool tonight in their FA Cup third-round replay following a 2-2 draw in the original tie, and with the Anfield side struggling at the minute, Lopetegui will fancy his chances of piling more misery on Jurgen Klopp and co.

The key battle could well be in midfield, and the Wolves boss should consider unleashing new signing Mario Lemina from the start tonight, as he could potentially make the difference in that sector.

Lemina joined Wolves from Nice last week and made a 17-minute cameo against West Ham United in the Old Gold’s 1-0 win on Saturday.

The Gabon international has plenty of Premier League experience, having spells at Southampton and Fulham previously while also lining out for Juventus, underlining his vast pedigree.

He was praised for his “unbelievable effort” by former Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl in 2021, and his energetic, combative approach could work wonders for Wolves against Klopp’s men tonight.

Indeed, according to FBref, the 29-year-old ranks in the top 20% for dribbles completed, tackles, blocks, interceptions and clearances across Europe’s big five leagues compared to positional peers. Showcasing these attributes could duly allow Matheus Nunes and Ruben Neves the freedom to take up more attacking positions while Lemina sweeps up behind them, and he could terrify Liverpool in the process.

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Across 14 Ligue 1 matches for Nice this term, he averaged 2.3 tackles, 1.4 clearances and 0.8 interceptions per game while also demonstrating his physicality by winning an impressive 65% of his total duels, which suggests that he could be a force at the heart of the Wolves midfield axis.

Lopetegui has been crying out for a player like him, and unleashing Lemina from the very start could cause Liverpool all sorts of problems for their already beleaguered midfield.

Wolves will approach the game knowing that a victory is well within reach if they play as they have done recently and the Reds have another off-day.