Wolverhampton Wanderers return to Premier League action away at fellow strugglers West Ham United on Saturday evening, with Bruno Lage’s side currently just two points ahead of the 18th-placed Hammers.
It has proven a difficult start to the new season for the Midlands side with just a solitary victory from their opening seven games, having most recently suffered defeat at the hands of Manchester City prior to the international break.
The Old Gold have seemingly not been helped, however, by a number of injury concerns, with summer signing Sasa Kalajdzic notably suffering a cruel ACL blow on debut following his £15.5m arrival from Stuttgart last month.
With the 6 foot 7 menace out of action, the Molineux outfit have also been hampered further by the continued injury woes of one-time talisman Raul Jimenez, with the Mexican having been forced to miss the loss to Pep Guardiola’s side last time out.
The 31-year-old – who scored 30 Premier League goals across his first two seasons in England after joining in 2018 – has perhaps unsurprisingly struggled for form since his return from a life-threatening head injury last year, having scored just six top-flight goals during the 2021/22 campaign.
That rather meagre tally had still made the former Benfica man his side’s top scorer last term – alongside Daniel Podence – proving that the club are still far too heavily reliant on him to deliver the goods.
As such, it will be a notable blow that the £13.5m-rated man could be absent for a little while longer yet, with his national team coach Gerardo Martino suggesting in recent days that his “injury is worrying”, with the player likely to be facing a race against time to be fit for the upcoming World Cup.
Amid that concern, Lage must simply now turn to recent addition Diego Costa, irrespective of his match fitness, to lead the line against David Moyes’ men this weekend, with Wolves in need of a real focal point in attack having been particularly goal shy of late.
This season has seen them score just three times in seven league games thus far, having also only netted at a rate of a goal a game in the top-flight last season, with only the three relegated sides scoring fewer goals across the division.
While no longer at his peak, the 33-year-old Costa is undoubtedly a real handful to contend with for any defence, having notably been lauded by former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho as an “animal” for his aggressive and no-holds-barred approach.
Not just something of a warrior, the two-time Premier League winner – who was signed on a free transfer earlier this month following Kalajdzic’s injury – also more importantly knows where the goal is, having scored 52 goals in just 89 league games during his time at Stamford Bridge.
A player with 187 club career goals to his name, the £50k-per-week brute most recently scored five goals in just 19 games at former club Atletico Mineiro last year, helping the Brazilian outfit to a league title triumph in the process.
The ageing gem had missed the clash with City due to a lack of match fitness having been a free agent since January, although is now back in full training and likely raring to go to make his Wolves debut, with Lage simply having no real option but to throw the mercurial talent into the fray.
If the Spain international’s previous record against West Ham is anything to go by – with three goals and an assist in just six meetings – then he could well prove to be the difference maker.