Wolves injury crisis eases; key players set to return for . . .
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Wolves injury crisis eases; key players set to return for Bournemouth match.

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Gary O’Neil is set to welcome back three senior players to his Wolves starting lineup after admitting he could not have predicted the severity of their injury problem.

Mario Lemina, Pablo Sarabia, and Rayan Ait-Nouri are all likely to start against Bournemouth tonight, while Jean-Ricner Bellegarde could return to the squad after a quicker-than-anticipated recovery from a knee injury.

Matheus Cunha and Nelson Semedo are also vying for a spot, as the club’s injury difficulties begin to ease. O’Neil will postpone a decision on the latter pair’s participation until as late as practicable. Wolves have taken only two points from their previous six games, thereby ending their chances of competing for a European spot. O’Neil recently claimed that he informed the club’s management in January that the squad was at risk of burnout.

But yesterday, he continued, “Even I did not expect it to be as awful as it is now. There is, of course, another aspect to this, in terms of determining why we have had the injuries and what we can do to avoid them in the future.

“There are no shortcuts on this level. Having your greatest players available, as well as good players, is critical for accumulating points. The club is well aware of the problem and will do everything they can (in the summer).

O’Neil emphasized yesterday that any negotiations about summer business, including the potential of a new contract for himself, would wait until the summer. For the time being, his emphasis is on the next five matches as his squad looks to conclude the season on a high note.

The manager has been encouraged by his players’ attitude in recent weeks and hopes it will continue until the end of the season.

“It doesn’t just stop in the summer, these five games are a continuation on what we can do,” the coach remarked.

“It’s incredibly difficult right now with the players we have out, but there’s still a lot to learn from it.

“We were eager to give our all against Arsenal at home, and the performance demonstrated that there are no plans to go on holiday. “We’re still striving to be the best team possible.”

O’Neil stated that facing Bournemouth, which fired him after one year in charge last summer, provided no additional impetus. The Cherries are one point and two places below Wolves in the table.

“If you did that in football you’d constantly be competing with teams and people you left behind,” he remarked. “You’re always moving on. I’m glad they’re doing well, and I believe the entire football team has made wonderful development.

“I had an enjoyable chance (at Bournemouth), albeit a difficult one. I managed to make a decent job of it, which led to my opportunity at a huge club like Wolves.

Wolves’ head coach was also asked if he had any sympathy for referee Stuart Attwell, who takes command at Molineux tonight after being slammed by Nottingham Forest for his appointment – and performance – in their defeat at Everton on Sunday.

“Stuart is a good professional who will be able to handle refereeing a Premier League game, no problem,” O’Neil added. “If you work in this sector, whether you’re officiating, managing, or playing, you may have to recover from a terrible situation and prepare to go again.

“That’s the nature of the industry. I am sure the last few days have not gone as he would have liked. But I am confident he will be prepared to officiate tomorrow and do a terrific job.

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