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Three Players to Watch: Matchday 34 vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

How will Fulham cope with the best team in the Championship?

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Brentford - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

So Fulham was not able to get the full three points against Bristol City, and that is ok. Their draw last Wednesday still kept them in the playoff picture and they prevented a side that could have leapfrogged them up the table. Along with that, Fulham survived an away fixture that came after four days rest. Oh, and Slavisa Jokanovic got away with a little squad rotation in the process.

Cyrus Christie and Denis Odoi were part of the starting XI and did what they needed to do to get the job done, with an assist from Christie to boot. Still, this change in the lineup came the game after Ryan Fredericks put in a man of the match performance. But with three games in eight days, It is critical for Fulham to strike a balance between keeping everyone healthy and competing at maximum performance.

As long as the good guys come in with good confidence against the Championship leaders, that’s all you can ask out of them. Because, boy, is Wolverhamton Wanderers good. Almost all season they have been the most complete team and it is only a matter of time before we see them and Mino Raiola’s influence make an impact on the Premier League.

Not only did Wolves lead the league in goals scored, but they also are just ahead of all comers in goals conceded. Manager Nuno Santos has been brilliant at implementing a 3-4-3 formation that has been a real struggle for the opposition to break down. The result has been a league-leading 10.0 total shots conceded per 90 minutes.

However, this is not a team known for its elite possession to prevent teams from ever having the ball at their feet. In fact, they are seventh in the league in tackles and fifth in the league in interceptions. If anything, they fit the mold of Chelsea in terms of the way they play. At their best, Wolves are compact in midfield, have wing backs that truly commit in both attack and defense, and have a multi-dimensional attacking trio that will attack you with thousands of paper cuts.

If there is good news, Fulham will have possession of the ball. But they will have to fight fire with fire with their midfield three and it will be critical to have their attack to be as efficient as ever breaking down the defense. Aleksandar Mitrovic has been off to a mesmerizing start to his Fulham loan spell, but the rest of the big players in Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon will have to be at their best for Fulham to win.

With that said, here are three players for them to watch out for.

Ivan Cavaleiro

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First up, we have the leading goal contributor for Wolves with 18 (8 goals, 10 assists). The former Monaco man is having a career season with Wolves after spending so many years not showing his true potential in top-flight football in Portugal, Spain, and France. At 24, Calvaleiro has brought plenty of that kind of experience to the club, but it is much better for him to play week-in-week-out rather than going to any club whose standards are to qualify for European football every season.

Even with his high goal count in the Championshi, it is quite clear that Calvaleiro is a pass-first player and loves to go at people on the dribble. I’ll be quite fascinated to see what happens to him the rest of his career because it is satisfying to see him get this much success this season.

Barry Douglas

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If you are looking for a solid example of a late bloomer, Barry Douglas is certainly a good one. At 28, he has truly been a perfect wingback for Nuno Santos’ systems and was nothing short of a nightmare to Fulham in their reverse fixture last November. There is no denying that with his production that he and Matt Doherty have what it takes to survive in England’s top flight.

After coming through the historic Queens Park Academy, Douglas made his Scottish top-flight appearances after he moved to Dundee United. You would think that after all that, it would be smooth sailing for Douglas that would lead to a long-term international career. Instead, he plied his trade in Poland and Turkey before returning to the British Isles this summer. If this season doesn’t lead to him becoming a mainstay for the National Team under new manager Alex MacLeish, I don’t know what will.

Willy Boly

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Lastly, we take a look at one of Wolves’ defenders in their back three in Willy Boly. The 27-year old FC Porto loanee has been a solid presence carrying the ball from the back and being a rock in not having defenders go past him and winning headers going his way. It also helps that he has been the most highly rated player according to Boly is also a solid passer without having to hoof it out of the pitch every chance he has.

Considering where he is at this stage of his career, it would be best for him to get a permanent deal with Wolves and see if he can leave a permanent legacy rather than return to Porto where he’ll just be another rotation player. That being said, he is on the second year of a five year contract with his parent club. It will be quite fascinating to see what his price tag will be considering those circunstances and when Wolves confirm promotion.