Wolves’ marathon men tar­get tro­phy as Nuno pleads for longer break

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By John Percy

It is a cam­paign which be­gan last year on July 25, and 57 matches later Wolves are re­turn­ing to their Europa League jour­ney.

Nuno Espir­ito Santo’s marathon men will restart their Euro­pean quest tonight with the sec­ond leg against Olympia­cos, 378 days af­ter their sea­son started in the com­pe­ti­tion’s qual­i­fiers. Wolves will have been play­ing for nearly 13 months if they reach Au­gust’s fi­nal in Cologne,

and Nuno has in­sisted the Premier League must give his play­ers an ex­tended break.

With the new do­mes­tic sea­son sched­uled to start on Sept 12, the Premier League has agreed to al­low clubs who reach the Europa League quar­ter-fi­nal the first week­end off, but Nuno (right) claims the lack of prepa­ra­tion time is still too short.

When asked by The Daily Tele­graph if he fears his play­ers will not have ad­e­quate time off be­fore the start of next sea­son, he said: “Yes, they will not get a proper break. We can­not stop and start, we must con­tinue and that’s why we have to ad­just the way we ap­proach it.

“I’m hope­ful the Premier League will look at that and al­low the teams in­volved a lit­tle bit more time, mainly be­cause of the play­ers.

“There will be prob­lems be­cause there won’t be a proper re­cov­ery. The play­ers won’t be able to dis­con­nect prop­erly due to what has hap­pened be­fore.”

Frank Lam­pard, the Chelsea head coach, was crit­i­cal of the start date af­ter their FA Cup fi­nal de­feat by Arse­nal last week­end, but Nuno’s team will have an even shorter win­dow if they reach next week’s quar­ter-fi­nals.

The Wolves head coach has ad­mit­ted that his prepa­ra­tions for next sea­son are al­ready suf­fer­ing due to the re­stric­tions on flights out of the coun­try, with a large Por­tuguese con­tin­gent in his squad. Nuno has not seen his own fam­ily in Por­tu­gal for nearly three months as he is for­bid­den to fly home dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­demic.

“It’s been very hard,” he said. “We tried af­ter the Chelsea game to give them some days off, but the sit­u­a­tion has changed, tourist cor­ri­dors be­tween our coun­tries are not open, so we have to sac­ri­fice those days. But we sac­ri­fice for a good rea­son be­cause we couldn’t risk go­ing and when we re­turn not be­ing able to be in­volved. This is why ev­ery­body has been truly com­mit­ted. We stayed here, pre­pared our­selves and it’s tough, but as pro­fes­sion­als our fam­i­lies un­der­stand it. We started be­fore ev­ery­body and hope­fully we are go­ing to fin­ish af­ter ev­ery­body.”

Wolves are one of the favourites to win the com­pe­ti­tion and their sec­ond meet­ing with Olympia­cos, at Mo­lineux, is del­i­cately poised, with the first leg in Pi­raeus end­ing in a 1-1 draw. Pe­dro Neto’s away goal could prove cru­cial.

Win­ning the fi­nal would earn Wolves a place in the Cham­pi­ons League and Le­an­der Den­don­cker, their mid­fielder, said: “We al­ways thought we could go far in this com­pe­ti­tion. Ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble and we have to be con­fi­dent about our­selves. We are all de­ter­mined to get to Ger­many next week.”

(prob­a­ble, 3-4-1-2): Pa­tri­cio; Boly, Coady, Saiss; Do­herty, Den­don­cker, Neves, Moutinho; Jonny; Jimenez, Jota.

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