‘I’ve told the boys to make it worth it’: Nuno Espirito Santo calls for one last push from his Wolves stars ahead of Europa League finale after marathon season on the road
Three more wins are all Wolves need to produce the perfect ending to three years of stunning progress.
When Nuno Espirito Santo took charge on May 31, 2017, the club had just finished 15th in the Championship. On Tuesday night, they take on Sevilla – five times winners of Europe’s second-tier competition since 2006 – for the chance to meet Manchester United or FC Copenhagen in the Europa League semi-finals on Sunday.
This will be Wolves’ 59th game of a season that started on July 25 last year – and probably their most difficult. Sevilla have been flying since lockdown, going unbeaten in their final 11 matches to finish fourth in La Liga and qualify for the Champions League. Julen Lopetegui’s team also looked very impressive in despatching Roma 2-0 in the last 16 last Thursday.
Nuno Espirito Santo has called for one last push from his Wolves side after a marathon season
The Premier League club take on Sevilla in the Europa League quarter finals on Tuesday night
Hours later, Wolves laboured to a 1-0 win over Olympiacos that cost them two key players here: suspended winger Daniel Podence, and injured wing-back Jonny, who damaged cruciate knee ligaments against the Greek champions.
‘We started against Crusaders more than a year ago,’ said Nuno. ‘Everyone has to realise that – it’s been long, long, long. To be in the last eight in Europe is huge – everyone has to realise the effort of the players.
‘I don’t know how many miles we have travelled this season. It’s crazy what we have done and I’ve told the boys to make it worth it. Let’s make this final effort and compete against a very good opponent.
The west midlands club started their season on July 25 2019 and could finish on August 21
‘Nobody can forget that we started with this group of players in the Championship. We have done two seasons in the Premier League and you always try to progress. To repeat the history of the 1950s and 1960s (Wolves were league champions three times and won the FA Cup once between 1954 and 1960) is very difficult, though.’
Wolves landed in Dusseldorf on Sunday after completing their final session at their Compton HQ and will remain in the city until they are eliminated, leaving it only to travel to matches. They trained at the MSV Arena in Duisburg on Monday.
The entire travelling party resulted negative for Covid-19 in Saturday’s tests and underwent a further round of tests on Monday, with the results expected on Tuesday morning.
Wolves landed in Dusseldorf on Sunday and are three wins away from Europa League glory
They face a tough test when they take on Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla side in Duisburg on Tuesday
It is believed players have been advised to use their common sense while in Dusseldorf – walks around the city are permitted, but they have been encouraged not to enter shops or restaurants while there.
Lopetegui, the former Spain and Real Madrid coach, has done a fine job at Sevilla, yet he came very close to taking charge at Wolves in 2016, after Chinese conglomerate Fosun had assumed control of the club. Instead, he was offered the chance to become Spain coach and took that route instead.
‘I was very close to Wolves. They were very nice to me and really interested,’ Lopetegui told Sportsmail in an interview in 2016.
‘When the federation called, naturally my objective became the national team, but it’s true that before that (Wolves and I) had been working hand in hand for some time. It was very close but in the end it wasn’t to be.
‘I enjoyed the time I spent with them; there were offers from the Premier League but their project was especially attractive. Wolves is a great club, where there would be significant investment and a desire to grow, to shine again.’
There could be no better time to do so than here in Duisburg on Tuesday.