Crusaders 1-4 Wolves
(1-6 on aggregate)
Goals: Raúl Jiménez x2 (£7.5m), Ryan Bennett (£5.0m)
Own Goals: Jordan Forsythe
Assists: Diogo Jota x2 (£6.5m), Joao Moutinho x2 (£5.5m)
Wolves’ preparation for Gameweek 1 will now include a 6,000-mile round-trip to Armenia just days before they are scheduled to face Leicester at the King Power Stadium.
Following their 6-1 aggregate victory over Crusaders in the second qualifying round of the Europa League, they will face Pyunik in the third.
They are based in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, roughly 3,000 miles from Wolverhampton.
Progression in European competition will certainly be of great encouragement to Nuno Espirito Santo and his players but it is obviously far from ideal to go through a 3,000-mile journey between a Thursday night match and the opening game of the Premier League on Sunday.
Furthermore, Wolves could potentially be playing either of those games without star striker Raúl Jiménez (£7.5m) who sustained an injury on Thursday night.
“We have to be careful to manage the right moments for him to get back in shape and get the full fitness we want. Let’s see, it was his foot, let’s see how it is.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
The Mexican Gold Cup winner was Wolves’ star player against Crusaders scoring twice on his first time back in the starting XI since last season.
Before going off with a foot problem in the 55th-minute, Jiménez fired in two fantastic finishes to put the tie beyond Crusaders.
For the first goal, he collected a Diogo Jota (£6.5m) cross on the edge of the box and slammed a powerful shot on the swivel low into the bottom corner.
For the second, Jiménez collected a backheel from Jota in a similar position to the first goal and, on the turn, fired the ball into the top corner.
However, whether he will be available for upcoming matches hangs in the balance although next Thursday’s third round first leg in Armenia may provide us with more information on Jiménez’s injury.
If he is unable to play either against Pyunik, Leicester or both then it could mean more game-time for FPL midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White (£5.0m) up-front.
It was the 19-year-old who came on for Jiménez in the 55th minute and who has been deputising for him during pre-season while he was away on international duty and subsequent leave.
As we’ve mentioned before, who stands in for Jiménez, or indeed Jota, up-front long-term probably depends on Matt Doherty (£6.0m) as his continued absence meant another start at right wing-back for Adama Traoré (£5.0m) on Thursday night.
The rest of Wolves’ team remains very similar to what we became used to last season, as Nuno continues to enjoy a settled side.
Rui Patrício (£5.0m) was in goal behind a back-three of Conor Coady (£5.0m), Willy Boly (£5.0m) and Ryan Bennett (£5.0m).
The latter was involved at both ends of the pitch inadvertently opening the scoring for Crusaders in the 13th minute.
The centre-back rose highest to meet a cross from the right-wing but headed the ball into his own net.
However, on the stroke of half-time, Bennett made amends as he nodded home a Joao Moutinho‘s (£5.5m) corner.
The Portuguese international sat alongside Ruben Neves (£5.5m) and Leander Dendoncker (£4.5m) in midfield and came away with two assists.
The first came for Bennett’s headed effort before it was Moutinho’s cross from deep that was headed into the Crusaders net by defender Jordan Forsythe.
Wolverhampton Wanderers XI (3-5-2): Patrício; Coady, Boly, Bennett; Jonny, Neves (Saïss 68′), Moutinho, Dendoncker, Traoré; Jiménez (Gibbs-White 55′), Jota (Vinagre 68′).
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