Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester United - Premier League
Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Lopetegui lays down gauntlet to Raul Jimenez ahead of Aston Villa clash

Julen Lopetegui has challenged Raul Jimenez to become a starter against for Wolves, as the team prepare to take on Aston Villa in the Premier League.

Jimenez has endured a pretty frustrating past few months due to a niggling groin injury.

It’s something that has given him trouble for a while, and the problem flared up when Wolves faced Southampton earlier this season.

Photo by Copa/Getty Images

He had been named on the bench that day, but then pulled out of the matchday squad due to discomfort.

Jimenez did not play again for Wolves until after the World Cup, where he could only made three cameo appearances for Mexico.

The £100,000-a-week striker joined his Wolves teammates out in Marbella and has been working hard to get back to full fitness.

So far under Lopetegui he is yet to start. He came off the bench in the games against Gillingham (and scored a penalty) and Manchester United most recently.

Diego Costa has been struggling to make an impact for Wanderers, so there is potential for Jimenez to start increasing his minutes.

That said, Matheus Cunha has now officially joined from Atletico Madrid. So there is potentially more competition for him as the Brazilian can play through the middle.

Lopetegui spoke in his press conference today about the star, and seemed to call on Jimenez to force his way back into the starting XI.

Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

He said (Wolves official): “He’s [Jimenez] very important for us and in this situation they have to fight to show that they are able to play in the line-up and after to show in the matches.

“But all of them are working in a good way and step by step I think Raul is feeling better. Of course, we want him to be fit because we need all of the players in 100 per cent of their conditions.”

Since day one, Lopetegui has called Jimenez an important player.

He appears to genuinely have faith in the Mexican to get back to full fitness and find his best form again.

It has made for interesting reading, as for weeks it’s been against a backdrop of transfer speculation about the 31-year-old.

Supposedly, clubs in the MLS are keen to sign him, as are his old team Club America.

Julen Lopetegui may be applying pressure on Raul Jimenez not to seek Molineux exit

It is clear this this point that Lopetegui wants to retain Jimenez beyond January.

To challenge him publicly to get back into the starting XI feels like he is putting the pressure on him to stay.

He has probably already told him to his face he wants to keep him. But by also saying this in the media, it potentially forces Jimenez to think twice if he is considering trying to leave.

Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Unless someone comes in with a very good offer, Wolves shouldn’t be looking to offload Jimenez.

Given Costa’s struggles to make an impact in terms of scoring goals, it would be unwise.