Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo has described Southampton skipper James Ward-Prowse as a “specialist” and joked that part of trying to stop the midfielder scoring from a free-kick is to “pray”.
Nuno’s men face the Saints twice over the next few days, firstly at home in the FA Cup fifth round on Thursday, and then in a Premier League clash at St Mary’s on Sunday.
Ward-Prowse has scored a total of 10 free-kicks in the Premier League, putting him one behind leader Sebastian Larsson on the division’s all-time list, and four of those have come this season.
Nuno, a former goalkeeper, was asked at his press conference about the England international’s scoring from free-kicks, and he said: “How do you stop it? A good wall, and then prevent the ball going inside your goal – and pray!”
He added: “He is a specialist. He is a very good kicker of the ball. He has shown his quality. It can happen, a foul is a foul, and you have to just prepare yourself, organise your wall properly and then do your job.”
Southampton head into the game on a four-game losing streak, which includes being beaten 9-0 at Manchester United last week.
Nuno said: “All the teams during this season have tough, tough moments, but that doesn’t take away the quality and the talent of the squad of Southampton.
“It is a very talented squad, a very good manager (Ralph Hasenhuttl). We know in football anything can change from one game to the other. It’s a new game, it’s not what’s important, (what was) before. Let’s compete. And it’s the FA Cup, we want to compete well.”
Daniel Podence and Willy Boly remain unavailable after missing the 0-0 draw with Leicester on Sunday due to injury. Marcal (groin) is also still sidelined, but Rayan Ait-Nouri could make his return from injury on Thursday.
The Leicester match saw a first appearance for the season for fit-again wing-back Jonny, who on Wednesday Wolves announced had signed a contract extension until 2025.
Regarding the recovery of Raul Jimenez (fractured skull), Nuno said: “He is doing good. He had a consultation these days and the results are amazing.
“So gradually he will progress, but it is too soon yet to predict the exact moment. He’s working by himself but with a good intensity in his training sessions, so we are really positive and delighted.”
Nuno was also asked on Wednesday for his thoughts on Instagram announcing new measures, including removing accounts, to tackle online abuse following the recent spate of racist attacks on footballers.
“I support that, all the measures to eradicate these situations must be taken,” he said.
“But at the same time it is a matter of realising who is behind. We never know who is behind these situations. It is a difficult job for the authorities to identify.
“It’s a problem in society. It’s easier to hide yourself behind something and not show your face. It’s a problem we have to try to solve, but I don’t see it coming too soon.”
He added: “It is a problem of society, of our community, of situations that we are living, in lockdown, at home, stressed. It’s a major problem.
“I will try to do everything I can to eradicate. I don’t know if any Wolves players have been abused, I hope not – I hope that it doesn’t happen to anybody, because it’s not good.”