With Wolves already qualified for the group stages of the Europa League, and with a resurgent Tottenham looming on Sunday, it would be no surprise to see key players rested for Thursday’s final group game.
Besiktas can’t qualify for the knockout stages, while Wolves can top group K with the combination of a win and a victory for Slovan Bratislava at home to leaders Braga.
The advantage of winning the group would allow Wolves to play their home leg second in the round of 32, the draw of which will be made next Monday, December 16, at 1pm.
Head coach Nuno Espirito Santo wants to win the game, of course, but just like on so many other occasions this season, he has to have one eye on the next challenge.
He will also want to avoid disrupting the momentum of their unbeaten run, which stands at 15 games over the Premier League and Europa League.
So, team selection will be something of a balancing act between picking a strong enough side to beat Besiktas and ensuring key players are as fresh as possible for the visit of Jose Mourinho’s Spurs three days later.
We should expect some changes but it just depends how far Nuno’s tinkering will go.
This game is a bit of a trip into the unknown as it is as close as they have had to a ‘dead rubber’ game, though with the chance to win the group at stake, Nuno will not be treating it as such.
Despite Wolves’ record of scoring more goals after 75 minutes than any other Premier League team, some fans have said the team has looked tired towards the end of games recently.
With such a tough schedule coming up, fatigue is something Nuno is desperate to prevent.
Starting in goal, there is a chance that John Ruddy could earn some much-needed match practice to allow Rui Patricio a brief rest.
The 33-year-old Ruddy has appeared in just three of the 29 matches Wolves have played this season – one in the Europa League and two in the Carabao Cup – so he hasn’t seen any action since the defeat to Aston Villa on October 30.
In defence, it’s possible we could see a completely changed back three.
Jesus Vallejo could win another chance to try to prove himself, while this game would appear to be tailor-made for fit-again Ryan Bennett to step up his match fitness after starting just one of the last 11 games since suffering his hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw against Southampton on October 19.
With potentially team changes around him, Bennett’s experience could be an important factor.
Max Kilman has looked calmness personified whenever he’s been called upon so far, and would appear to in line for another start.
But what of Owen Otasowie? Nuno has already said he likes the 18-year-old’s physicality and versatility and this might be a chance to see how he handles a bigger stage after impressing for the Under-23s at a time when Wolves are looking to tie him down to a new contract with big clubs watching him closely.
Is it too much of a stretch to see Dion Sanderson made his European debut at right wing back?
Matt Doherty has played a lot of football of late and might benefit for a rest before facing a club who have been linked with him this season.
At left wing back, Ruben Vinagre is due a game and I would expect him to be recalled.
Wolves haven’t got the strength in depth to bring in like-for-like quality and experience in central midfield or attack like they have in central defence.
So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see two players who have been operating as centre backs recently – Leander Dendoncker and Romain Saiss – pushed forward into midfield to allow Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves the chance of a breather.
In attack, Raul Jimenez will be taking a much-needed break as he is suspended after picking up three bookings in the competition.
Patrick Cutrone needs games and is the Mexican’s obvious replacement as the central striker if Nuno persists with a three-man attack.
Pedro Neto is another who would appear to relish more minutes and I can see him winning a start to add to his six Europa League appearances, in place of Diogo Jota.
Adama Traore has become a first pick this season and in terms of balance, he might be one to keep his place.
If Wolves are contemplating changes, the same can be said of Besiktas.
According to Bein Sports Turkey, Besiktas manager Abdullah Avciis is set to rest key players for the game.
The Turkish club have won their last seven games in the Super Lig to go second, trailing leaders Sivasspor by three points after 14 matches, plus they have progressed in the Turkish Cup.
They are in fine form after a poor start to the season where they won one in six league outings.
To maintain their title challenge, reports say Avci will rest players such as regular defenders Gokhan Gonul and Caner Erkin, five-goal top-scoring striker Burak Yilmaz, and midfield trio Adem Ljajic, Atiba Hutchinson and Mohamed Elneny for the trip to Molineux.
It’s reported the Black Eagles will field a weakened team as their main focus is the next league game against Yeni Malatyaspor on Sunday.
Looking ahead, the 32 qualifiers for the round of 32 are made up of the 12 group winners, 12 group runners-up and eight third-ranked teams from the Champions League group stage.
Joining Wolves, the other teams to have qualified so far are APOEL, AZ Alkmaar, Basel, Braga, Celtic, Espanyol, Gent, LASK, Manchester United, Sevilla, Sporting CP, and Wolfsburg.
The clubs are split into two pots, with the 12 group winners and the four best third-ranked teams in the UEFA Champions League group stage all seeded.
No team can play a club from their UEFA Europa League group or a side from the same national association, so Nuno’s side can’t meet Manchester United or Braga at this stage.