Conor Coady

Wolves, Tottenham praise ‘sensational’ Raul Jimenez

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LONDON — We were on site at Tottenham on Sunday as Mexico’s Raul Jimenez played the hero as players from both Spurs and Wolves hailed the star striker who scored a superb late winner.

To make sure you have every angle covered for the marquee Premier League games, our new feature “In the Mixed Zone” will take you behind-the-scenes and into the tunnel areas to hear from the star players moments after their magic has decided games or drama has ensued.

[ MORE: In the Mixed Zone ] 

The idea is to set the scene of being inside the tunnel area in Old Trafford, by the dugouts at Stamford Bridge and in the swanky new players area in Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium as Premier League stars walk out of the dressing room and break down the game with media members around the world. We will tell you what they are saying and the kind of antics going on amid the hubbub of the mixed zone as players from both teams have their say on the 90-plus minutes of action we’ve just witnessed.

Here’s what players from Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham were saying after Wolves sealed a dramatic comeback win to boost their UEFA Champions League hopes.


JIMENEZ THE HERO

Raul Jimenez scored a superb late winner to make it 3-2 and players from both teams were hailing his display after the game.

Jimenez was as humble as ever when speaking after the game, pointing to the great performance by the team.

“It’s an amazing feeling. We knew that we are a very good team that can do these kind of things. This is our spirit, this is what we want. That’s what characterises us,” Jimenez said. “Every game we play, we fight to the end, the last minute. We keep winning, getting up in the table and keep going. We are proud of this game and we have to keep going to achieve more goals. We are looking at top five, if we can keep fighting like this, never give up – we know that it’s going to be difficult but we can do it if we play like today.”

Wolves defender Matt Doherty lauded Raul Jimenez and his strike partner Diogo Jota as they combined for Jimenez’s game-winner.

“The last goal there typified what they can do. The ball gets cleared and it is two against I don’t know however many it was but they made it look easy in the end. The way Raul cut back and stuck it in the top corner. We’ve got a really good team with top class players at a really good age.”

Conor Coady, Wolves’ captain, praised Jimenez’s desire to improve every single day and wants the Molineux club to keep hold of him amid interest from plenty of Europe’s top clubs.

“He is a fantastic football to have at this club. He is a huge asset to the football club and we want to keep him here for many, many years,” Coady said. “His all round game, he is such a good professional, he wants to work hard every single day. It is his all-round game he has improved, he is a sensational footballer.”

We asked Tottenham’s Eric Dier, who did his best to shut down Jimenez, about the qualities of Mexico’s star striker and the England international called him “one of the best strikers in the Premier League, he does everything very well. I can see how valuable he is to them.”


TOTTENHAM DOWNBEAT

Wolves are now just three points off fourth-place Chelsea and they jumped ahead of Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification, which could move down to fifth place if Man City’s European ban is upheld by UEFA.

Even if fifth place is enough to reach the UCL next season, Spurs look unlikely to finish in fifth on current form as Jose Mourinho’s side battle with injuries and the mood was extremely downbeat after the game. The photo of Harry Winks below basically sums up their mood.

A few players did stop to speak with the media and Jose Mourinho was in a combative mood after fans seemed to ironically cheer him bringing on youth team striker Troy Parrott in the 90th minute. Thinks are unraveling very quickly for Mourinho at Spurs.


MIXEDZONEOLOGY

Something worth noting, and perhaps what spurred them on late in the game, is that Wolves’ players have now been given a few days off to do as they please.

Raul Jimenez and Rui Patricio were waiting to get a cab together to head away on a vacation as the Wolves players were all making their arrangements for a rare week-long break between games. Given their commitments in the Europa League all season long, they have the luxury of having seven days until their next game against Brighton on Mar. 7.

I think we can all agree that Wolves’ very small squad have 100 percent earned their break.

Europa League preview: Arsenal, Wolves, Man Utd look to advance

Europa League
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Fifteen places remain up for grabs in the Europa League’s Round of 16 after Steven Gerrard’s Rangers handled Braga in Wednesday’s lone second leg.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Notable names Porto, Benfica, and Ajax enter their second legs with hills to climb, while the three Premier League teams have varying degrees of advantage.

Manchester United v. Club Brugge

United enters the second leg at Old Trafford with an away goal advantage after the 1-1 draw in Belgium.

Luke Shaw says the Red Devils are driven by a desire to play for silverware, and the UEL joins the FA Cup as their lone opportunities to claim trophies this year.

“It is a massive ambition for me,” said Shaw, via The Manchester Evening News. “I was there for the Europa League final, and the feeling, even though I wasn’t on the pitch, was a feeling I have not felt and I wanted more of. I wasn’t involved and that is what is pushing me on even more to get into this final, and others. We should be in finals and we should be in all competitions until the end. We are very confident at the moment.”

Arsenal v. Olympiacos

The Gunners claimed a 1-0 result in Greece, and know a draw will be enough to bring Mikel Arteta‘s men to the Round of 16.

The manager was asked what’s different about his Gunners, now back in contention to qualify for Europe via the Premier League table.

“I think the team is progressing well, the club is in a better place,” Arteta said, via Football.London. “We are getting much more unity on the sections of the club and as well a great energy back from the fans every time we play at the Emirates and away from the Emirates. There are a lot of positive things but there are still things to improve individually, collectively and as a club and we are in that process at the moment.”

Espanyol v. Wolves

Wolves rang up a four-goal advantage at the Molineux, and that may give Nuno Espirito Santo a chance to use his depth for a rare time this season.

The boss has counted on players like Conor Coady, Rui Patricio, and Raul Jimenez in all tournaments, and he admits that it’s worn on the squad.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve not suffered,” said Espirito Santo via Wolves’ site. “It’s been tough with a tight schedule, very demanding on the players and I think the credit is on them – the way they compete, the way they prepare themselves to compete, but it’s tough, very tough. … The credit is for the players, it’s for the staff, but the players buying, believing and working very hard, is what makes things go well.”

Look out for Diogo Jota if he plays; The Wolves star has five goals in his past two matches.

Thursday’s second legs

12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs
Istanbul Basaksehir (1-3) v. Sporting Lisbon
Gent (0-1) v. Roma
Malmo (1-2) v. Wolfsburg
LASK (1-1) v. AZ Alkmaar
Porto (1-2) v. Bayer Leverkusen
Espanyol (0-4) v. Wolves
Basel (3-0) v. APOEL Nicosia

3 p.m. ET
Manchester United (1-1) v. Club Brugge
Celtic (1-1) v. Copenhagen
Benfica (1-2) v. Shakhtar Donetsk
Red Bull Salzburg (1-4) v. Eintracht Frankfurt
Inter Milan (2-0) v. Ludogorets Razgrad
Ajax (0-2) v. Getafe
Sevilla (1-1) v. CFR Cluj
Arsenal (1-0) v. Olympiacos

Wolves’ red-hot Jota too much for Norwich City

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Diogo Jota scored twice and helped produce the third goal of Wolves 3-0 battering of Norwich City at the Molineux Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Mexican star Raul Jimenez scored the other goal for Wolves.

Wolves rise eighth with 39 points, five points off fourth and two back of fifth-place Manchester United.

Norwich City remains seven points back of 17th place with a league-worst goal differential sinking to minus-27.


Three things we learned

1. Red-hot JotaWolves’ 23-year-old attacker was coming off a hat trick versus Espanyol in Europa League play, and had two goals by the half-hour mark at the Molineux. That gives him five PL goals amongst his 14 in all competitions as Wolves threaten both the Europa League and, somehow, remain alive in the top four race.

2. Abject Norwich defending: Daniel Farke‘s men have been praised for continuing their forward-thinking, attack-minded football in the Premier League, but maybe they simply didn’t have the protectors to bunker down in front of Tim Krul. That’s a bit unfair, because it’s admirable that Farke wishes to entertain, but there’s no debating the mess that is the Canaries defense this year.

3. Jimenez is Mexico’s best: Club Leon’s coach made headlines this week when he called LAFC’s Carlos Vela the best Mexican player, and perhaps he’s No. 2, but there’s no North American in the world doing what Raul is doing in Europe. Jimenez went over 3,300 season minutes on Sunday, adding another goal to give him 22 with 10 assists. Only Rui Patricio, Conor Coady, and Joao Moutinho have played more than the El Tri star.

Man of the Match: Jota


Norwich City had two promising moments in the first seven minutes, as Max Aarons hit a terrific through ball that died with a Teemu Pukki extra touch. Then Pukki forced Rui Patricio into a save.

Kenny McLean cranked a shot to Patricio off a Puuki pass in the 11th minute.

A Norwich giveaway allowed Diogo Jota to dance into the 18, but he instead dribbled himself out of room and was tackled.

Jota made amends in the 19th minute, lashing home after a terrific team goal.

It might’ve been 2-0 had Alex Tettey not darted between Jota’s 23rd-minute pass to Raul Jimenez.

Jota got his second in the 30th off a corner kick, as Romain Saiss slashed a pass across the six that any of three Wolves would’ve put in for a two-goal lead.

Tim Krul made a great save on a Ruben Neves free kick after Jota was injured drawing the set piece atop the 18.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Jota smashed the post moments before Jimenez deposited Wolves’ third goal of the game, a 3-0 lead arriving in the 50th minute.

PL Preview: Wolves v. Leicester

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  • These 2 teams played to a 0-0 draw on the season’s opening day
  • 4 of Leicester City’s 6 losses this season have come on the road
  • Wolves have scored just 9 of their 35 goals in the 1st half of PL games

Leicester City has been eyeing second in the Premier League table for some time now.

With Man City on its February break, the Foxes can officially catch Pep Guardiola and take second place with victory on the road at Wolves on Friday, with kickoff set for 3 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Just two points back in third, Leicester City can overtake Man City should they top a Wolves squad licking its wounds. Thankfully for the hosts, the February break may have served to alleviate some of those injury concerns. Adama Traore suffered a double blow in the 0-0 draw with Manchester United before the hiatus, dislocating his shoulder and suffering a kick to the calf later that eventually forced him off. Thanks to the long break, Traore is expected to play some part in the match, even if he doesn’t start. If Traore begins on the bench, it could signal a first Premier League start for new signing Daniel Podence.

Leicester City will be without an impactful player as well, with Wilfred Ndidi likely to miss his second straight match, with Brendan Rodgers saying the Nigerian returned too quickly from a knee operation.

Injuries/suspensions

Wolves: OUT – Ruben Vinagre (thigh). QUESTIONABLE – Adama Traore (shoulder/calf).

Leicester City: OUT –  Nampalys Mendy (knee), Ryan Bennett (unable to face parent club), Daniel Amartey (ankle). QUESTIONABLE – Wilfried Ndidi (knee), Wes Morgan (illness), Matty James (Achilles).


Probable lineups

Wolves: Patricio; Jonny, Saiss, Coady, Boly, Doherty; Neves, Moutinho, Jota; Jimenez, Podence.

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell; Choudhury, Praet, Tielemans, Perez, Maddison; Vardy.


What they’re saying

Wolves defender Conor Coady on return of Willy Boly“He slotted straight back in and is a fantastic footballer. He is a brilliant person too to move forward in the team. You saw what he did on Saturday. He did exactly what he did before he got injured. He is a fantastic person to come back in. It’s not an easy game to come into either. He was brilliant and he does that every single game – you know what you are going to get from him. He has been a big miss since he has been injured, so to have him back is a huge thing for this football club.”

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers on Wolves: “It will be a tough test. They are well organized, they’ve been together for a few years. Nuno [Espírito Santo] has done a great job there. I’m looking forward to the challenge of it.”


Prediction

The possible absence of Traore and Ndidi take a bit of sting out of this game, and that could see this headed for another draw. Both teams would rue a loss far more than they would fear a draw, and that’s sometimes how these battles play out. It would be great for the Foxes to find themselves second in the table, and Wolves could jump all the way to fifth, but ultimately the point is the most valuable. It won’t be as dull as the season opener, but a 1-1 draw with some excitement at the end could ultimately play out between two teams proficient at scoring second-half goals.

Watford holds on through red card to topple Wolves

Watford Wolves recap
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Watford built a two-goal lead and held on through a 71st minute red card to beat Wolves 2-1 at Vicarage Road on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Nigel Pearson‘s men have now won three of four matches and are two points back of safety with 19 points.

Gerard Deulofeu and Abdoulaye Doucoure scored the goals, the latter on his 27th birthday.

As for Wolves, they fail in a bid to strengthen their top-end credentials and sit seventh with 30 points.


Three things we learned

1. Deulofeu one of the season’s X-factors: Watford got 10 league goals with five assists out of the Spaniard last season, but the 25-year-old hasn’t been able to do as much this go-round. Ismaila Sarr is now humming along, too, and Watford’s attack finding it footing.

Wednesday’s goal was Deulofeu’s fourth of the season, and it’s interesting to note the change in production from his first Premier League stint. At Everton, Deulofeu had eight goals and 19 assists in 75 matches, compared to now 17 and eight in 63 for the Hornets.

2. Wolves losing hope of Top Four: Wolves are playing as many games as anyone in Europe, and maybe this was all a big ask given the brutal fixture list; Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men were unlucky versus Liverpool but not sharp enough Wednesday in losing a second-successive loss. Their twin wins over Man City show that anything is possible, but they really needed to grab these points before the Europa League fixture list begins to torture them again.

3. Mentality fixed under Pearson: Nigel Pearson’s men could’ve wilted given the opposition and the red card, but stood firm against a very good Wolves side to move even closer to the safe spaces. They’ll finish the day between two and four points back of safety, which seemed silly mere weeks ago. Right now, it looks like Watford has a chance to return to their plucky and potent team of last season.

Man of the Match: Most of the best individual days belonged to Wolves, but Deulofeu was part of a lively attack and gets our nod.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Conor Coady sent Matt Doherty through to goal in the 13th minute, but Ben Foster continued his fine form with a big save.

Wolves wanted a penalty when Pedro Neto hit the deck in the box, but a yellow card was given and VAR stayed with the call.

Deulofeu gave Watford the lead with a curling finish around Rui Patricio. Ismaila Sarr continued his good form with the assist, as the Hornets scored with their fifth attempt of the night.

Sarr came close to a goal of his own when Troy Deeney played him into the right of the 18.

Doucoure made it 2-0 coming out of the break when Deulofeu dribbled to the middle and laid off wide, a hard deflected strike leaving Patricio for dead.

The hour mark saw the match back in play thanks to Neto’s first Premier League goal, a deflected effort from distance.

Jonny Otto won a dangerous free kick for Wolves and a man advantage, too, when he was fouled by Christian Kabasele in the 72nd. The Watford defender sent off, and Wolves were unable to equalize up a man over 19 minutes.