Wolverhampton-Nottingham Forest Preview
Steve Cooper has urged his Nottingham Forest players to embrace the pressure of Saturday's relegation six-pointer against Wolves, with both sides battling to remain in the Premier League.
Forest are enduring a six-game winless run, and they are perched just two points above the division's bottom three ahead of huge fixtures against fellow strugglers Wolves and Leeds United in the coming days.
While the importance of such games could lead to nerves, Cooper is relishing the head-to-head battles with those competing with Forest.
"It's the Premier League. Every team is in a situation where they are playing for something, that's the beauty and the essence of being at the very top," he said.
"You can go through every team this weekend and they are all playing for something, we are no different.
"We understand the importance of it and understand that at this stage of the season it can get more tense, but that's not different to last season or next season and so forth.
"We need to relish the challenge, thrive on the challenge. Pressure is a privilege."
Forest eliminated Wolves from the EFL Cup via a penalty shoot-out in January, with Morgan Gibbs-White and Matheus Cunha among several players involved in a melee at the end of a bad-tempered affair.
Wolves head coach Julen Lopetegui saw his conduct after that match branded "unprofessional" by the Football Association, and he is keen to ensure his team stay level-headed this time around.
"Maybe you can show these type of emotions and react and all of us can do better, for sure," he said.
"In the end, the most important thing is to respect the referee, respect the opponent, always.
"It's about getting points, to get points you have to do a lot in a good way. You have to compete well, defend well, attack well and have a big demand and focus in each moment."
Nottingham Forest - Brennan Johnson
Forty eight per cent of Johnson's off-ball runs in the Premier League this season have seen a team-mate try to find him with a pass (228/473). That is the highest percentage of targeted runs by a player to make 200+ runs in the competition this term. So much of Forest's attacking play goes through Johnson, and the hosts need him to provide some inspiration here.
Wolves - Raul Jimenez
Jimenez has had more shots on target without scoring this season than any other player in the Premier League (nine). The Mexican hasn't scored in any of his last 21 Premier League appearances since netting against Watford in March 2022, and he will be desperate to end that run in order to drag Wolves away from danger.
Nottingham Forest have won just one of their last eight league games against Wolves (D2 L5), a 2-0 away win in the Championship back in January 2018.
Having gone unbeaten through their first five Premier League games of 2023 (W3 D2), the hosts are now winless in their last six (D2 L4). After conceding just two goals across those first five matches, Forest have conceded at least twice in five of their last six.
Wolves have won their last two away league games against Nottingham Forest. However, they have never won on three successive trips to the City Ground.
Nottingham Forest 31.3 per cent
Wolves38.5 per cent
Draw30.2 per cent
Updated March 31, 2023