If the Premier League is the most competitive top flight in the world, it’s no doubt because of teams like Wolves and Leicester City.
Of course, the Foxes showed as much when they shocked the world to lift the 2015/16 English crown, but few clubs in the competition’s history have made such an impact after gaining promotion as the Molineux outfit did in 2018/19.
They’re a constant reminder to the so-called Big Six that any slump in standards will be readily capitalised upon, and a perfect case in point as to why ‘Project Big Picture’ never deserved to get off the ground.
Both clubs will be desperate to disrupt the Premier League’s elite as much as possible once again this term, and they certainly have the potential to do so with two squads that boast both incredibly strong starting XIs and some impressive depth too.
As they prepare to face each other this Sunday, there’s incredibly little to choose between the two sides, and the fact Wolves play a slightly more cautious counter-attacking game compared to Leicester’s more possession-based style only adds to how delicately poised the contest will be.
So, which side will come out on top? Perhaps accumulating the best players from each team to determine how many make our combined XI will give us a hint of what Sunday’s outcome will be…
Goalkeeper - Rui Patricio
Leicester and Wolves both boast incredibly solid No.1s but based purely on form this season, Rui Patricio gets the nod over Kasper Schmeichel.
While the Denmark star has registered two more saves this season, its his Molineux counterpart who lead the Premier League for clean sheets going into this weekend, and they're becoming an increasingly rare commodity in a top flight campaign being defined by the simply ridiculous number of goals scored.
He also slightly outranks Schmeichel for saves from shots faced, but the meagre margin of 0.08% shows how genuinely little to choose there is between two incredibly reliable and well-proven goalkeepers.
Right Back - Timothy Castagne
Another toss-up of incredibly fine margins. Timothy Castagne and Nelson Semedo have both impressed since arriving in the Premier League this summer, with the latter ranking an impressive fourth throughout the entire division for successful dribbles per match heading into gameweek 8.
But the Belgian just about edges it for the simple fact his all-round contributions have been matched by goal involvements, already registering one goal and two assists for the Foxes - albeit all of those coming in his first three Premier League outings.
If Semedo can add some output to his strong performances in the coming weeks, maybe we’ll reconsider this one.
Right Centre-Back - Willy Boly
We may be amid what’s shaping up to be one of the strangest seasons in the Premier League’s history but some things simply don’t change, Willy Boly’s reliability being one of them.
The Wolves centre-back is a perfect mix of physicality, defensive awareness and experience and while Nuno Santo sought to give his Wolves side a slight revamp over the summer, cashing in on an incredibly reliable performer in Matt Doherty, it’s telling that summer speculation instead suggested the club were keen to tie Boly down to extended terms.
They haven’t quite materialised just yet but the 29-year-old remains a huge part of his manager’s plans.
Left Centre-Back - Conor Coady
With Leicester City’s defensive options so drastically depleted this season, including Conor Coady alongside Boly was pretty much a foregone conclusion.
The Foxes’ injury problems aside, Coady’s earned his place in this combined XI regardless. His form since the start of last season has been enough to earn him a recurring role in Gareth
Southgate’s England squad and when it comes to switching play with ranging passes out to wide players, he’s without doubt one of the best in the Premier League.
A lack of pace may leave him a little more exposed in a back four compared to Wolves’ trusted three-man setup, but we’re willing to take that chance.
Left-Back - James Justin
Similar to the situation at centre-back for Leicester, Wolves just don’t have a reliable left-sided defender at the moment following a serious injury to resident wing-back Jonny, with three players already filling the void this season.
The Foxes aren’t actually in too dissimilar a boat themselves, having not signed an obvious replacement for Chelsea-bound Ben Chilwell during the summer.
But if anything, that only strengthens the argument that James Justin deserves a place in our combined XI. Despite being right footed and limited in experience at Premier League level, the 22-year-old has hardly looked out of place at No.3 - even scoring in a 4-2 win over Burnley.
Right midfield - Pedro Neto
Pedro Neto might well be one of the most underrated attacking players in the Premier League right now, never quite grabbing the headlines and yet always performing to a consistent standard for Nuno’s side.
So far this season, the Portuguese has scored once and provided two assists, while averaging an impressive two dribbles and two key passes per match. For reference, the only players to perform better throughout both Wolves and Leicester’s squads on either metrics are take-on enthusiasts Semedo and Adama Traore.
Capable of playing anywhere across the attacking midfield berth and even slightly deeper in the engine room, he offers Nuno real tactical flexibility as well.
Right Central Midfield - Youri Tielemans
In an ideal world we’d find a place in this combined XI for a certain James Maddison, who finished last season with nine Premier League goal involvements to his name.
But he doesn’t quite fit the dynamics of a 4-4-2 side and having started the campaign injured, he’s actually finding it difficult to break back into Leicester’s starting XI, benched for Monday night’s win over Leeds.
Youri Tielemans, meanwhile, has done his best to provide an influx of midfield goals in his absence. The Belgian bagged a brace over the Yorkshire side to take his return for the campaign to three strikes in the top flight, and at the age of just 23 it’s easy to overlook the fact the Foxes could have a real player on their hands if he continues to improve his game.
Left Central Midfield - Ruben Neves
Ruben Neves has that curious knack of quietly running the show while rarely being its shining star.
Nonetheless, at this point in his career, the 23-year-old is well-established as a class act - someone who not only breaks up play incredibly effectively but also launches attacks with a lengthy passing range and occasionally pops up with an absolute belter from the edge of the box.
Were he fit, perhaps he’d be facing some competition from Wilfried Ndidi for a spot in our combined XI. But with Leicester’s midfield general out for the foreseeable future, Neves’ mixture of steely tackles and precision passing is exactly what we need to anchor the engine room.
Left Midfield - Harvey Barnes
Make no mistake about it - Harvey Barnes is slowly getting better and better.
After a thunderous half-season on loan at West Brom and a tricky six months trying to gel into Leicester’s first team upon his return, Brendan Rodgers’ guidance brought his game to a whole new level last term - finishing up with six goals and eight assists.
He still lacks consistency, as is the case with pretty much all young wingers, but the 22-year-old has started the new season on the right track, already scoring twice in the Premier League.
If he can make it into double digits this time around, he’ll be rubbing shoulders with some of the best wide men in the division.
Right Striker - Raul Jimenez
Forming half of what would no doubt be a phenomenal strike partnership is Wolves’ talismanic forward Raul Jimenez. The Mexico international is a lethal goalscorer - since the start of last season he’s netted 21 times - but he’s equally influential when bringing others into play.
Indeed, Jimenez can win headers, hold up the ball to bring midfielders into play and drive at the defence himself with the ball at feet - tellingly, he’s averaged 1.4 dribbles per match so far this season.
Were it not for the fact he’s already 29, Jimenez would surely be a top target for any major European club in need of a new front-man. Nonetheless, that’s only to Wolves’ benefit and it’s doubtful their system would be quite so effective without the 6 foot 3 centre-forward operating as the spearhead.
Left Striker - Jamie Vardy
Another season, another goalscoring party for Jamie Vardy.
Most strikers are meant to be well past their best by the time they turn 33 but the former England man’s performances this season have been as frighteningly effective as ever, starting the new campaign with seven goals and one assist in just five starts.
Not only his speed but also the consistency in which he utilises it continues to create unsolvable problems for Premier League defences and whether he’s facing relegation strugglers or title chasers, Vardy’s always a constant threat.
If anything, Vardy’s only added to his game since he fired Leicester to the title and his eagerness to retain last season’s Golden Boot is exactly the kind of individual motivation we want in this combined XI.News Now - Sport News