Nuno Espirito Santo

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Wolves qualify for Europa League

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Next season Wolverhampton Wanderers will play in Europe for the first time since 1981.

Courtesy of Manchester City’s victory against Watford in the FA Cup final, and their seventh place finish in the Premier League this season, Wolves will now compete in the UEFA Europa League from the second-qualifying round in 2019-20.

Wolves have enjoyed a fantastic season back in the top-flight, as Nuno Espirito Santo led his newly-promoted side to some huge victories against teams from the top six with Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota leading the way up front.

The likes of Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Conor Coady, Matt Doherty and Rui Patricio also dazzled, as Wolves will aim to try and push into the top six next season.

Wolves are going on a European tour, with the first leg of the second qualifying round to be played on July 25 and the second leg on August 1.

Top Ten moments of the Premier League season

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The Premier League season is over, and it’s not difficult to find the moments that will live a bit longer than the others when we imagine the 2018-19 campaign.

[ MORE: Derby County reaches playoff final ]


10. Neil Warnock stands defiantly at midfield, stares at referees

Cardiff City didn’t do enough to stay up, but it got a lot of help from officials in its fall into the Championship.

Fortunately for us, manager Neil Warnock did not lay off of the officials who made or reversed calls he perceived as major slights to his Bluebirds.

Perhaps his best tune would be best accompanied by a version of The Robot dance.

“I always thought Mike Riley was a manufactured referee from day one,” Warnock said after a loss to Chelsea. “I don’t think he’s changed since then. He’s been coached, manufactured, almost like a robot. He knows everything about the rules, but I feel these people struggle to understand the game and the human element. A lot of referees are like Mike Riley and that’s why I think we have gone backwards. Common sense is not allowed nowadays, but the best refs still use it.”

That loss ended with Warnock standing at midfield, staring at the referee crew before stating that the Premier League is “the best league in the world with the worst officials.”

9. De Gea stuns Spurs to take Ole mania up a notch

Manchester United’s star goalkeeper was not up to his standards this season, but his performance against Tottenham Hotspur early in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era was impeccable.

Spurs dominated the Red Devils, but De Gea made 11 saves at Wembley to give OGS his first win over a top side.

8. Arsenal wins thrilling North London Derby

Arsenal finished below Tottenham Hotspur on the table, but the Gunners sent a message that they were up for the fight with a thrilling 4-2 win over Spurs on Dec. 1.

It had everything, including Mike Dean calling penalties for both sides. Arsenal outshot Spurs 22-11, and the teams combined for 13 shots on target. And the Gunners trailed 2-1 at the break!

Most importantly for the Gunners, it was a victory over their hated rivals which ran their unbeaten mark to 19 matches.

7. Wolves howl into contention with first upset

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s Wolverhampton Wanderers became giant killers for the first time when they ended a six-match dry spell by using a second-half burst to beat Chelsea 2-1.

The win was typical of Wolves’ best days, as Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota were the goal scorers. On the season, the newly-promoted Wolves beat Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, and Manchester United, drawing the Blues, Gunners, and Red Devils as well en route to a possible Europa League berth.

6. Mourinho’s “respect” rant

Manchester United had just lost 3-0 to Spurs at Old Trafford, but that’s not the three Jose Mourinho wanted to discuss in his post-match media briefing.

“Three-nil. Do you know what that also means? Three Premiership titles, and I also won more titles than the other 19 managers combined.”

5. Emiliano Sala‘s plane disappears

Cardiff City’s joy at the record purchase of Nantes striker Emiliano Sala soon turned to sickening grief when the Argentine’s plane was lost at sea. His body was recovered from the wreckage a few days later.

4. Pickford error gives Origi, Liverpool the derby

Everton supporters don’t need to be reminded that Liverpool had two moments of good fortune for every bit of bad luck in a run to second on the Premier League table. Jordan Pickford lost track of the ball in stoppage time to deny the Toffees a memorable point against their despised cross-town Reds.

3. Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha mourned

Leicester City lost its owner in November when his helicopter crashed after leaving King Power Stadium, and the world soon learned just how deeply Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was loved by the Foxes’ faithful. The scenes at the next home game were poignant and unforgettable.

2. Kompany’s thunderbolt

Manchester City’s big Belgian leant an aire of inevitability to his side’s title defense when he busted down the door of Kasper Schmeichel and Leicester City with an absolutely stunning strike.

  1. Eleven millimeters

Let’s set the scene: Unbeaten Liverpool has a chance to put Man City in its rear view mirror at the Etihad Stadium when Sadio Mane beats the keeper and hits the post. City center back John Stones‘ effort to clear the ball hits his keeper Ederson, and the Englishman does this en route to City’s 2-1 defeat of the Reds.

Season Review: Man United, Wolves, Everton, Leicester, West Ham

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We’re into the top half of the Premier League now, as we continue to review all 20 teams’ campaigns after the 2018-19 season came to a close on Sunday.

[ REVIEW: Huddersfield, Fulham, Cardiff, Brighton, Saints ]

The group of clubs that finished between 10th and sixth spans a massive gulf in preseason predictions: from supposed title challengers Manchester United, to newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers.

[ REVIEW: Burnley, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Watford ]

West Ham United

Finishing position/points total: 10th / 52 points
High point: Handing London rivals Tottenham Hotspur their first defeat at their brand new stadium.
Low point
: Losing four straight to start the season, after spending big in the summer transfer window and hiring Manuel Pellegrini.

Our opinion: Given what West Ham have actually achieved this decade, they finished right where they should. Given what they spent last summer, they underachieved. That is almost certainly a product of the constant turnover taking place in east London.
Star player
: Felipe Anderson
Most memorable goal
: Declan Rice‘s first goal for West Ham was a big one: the winner against Arsenal.

Manager grade: Manuel Pellegrini: C
Hopes for next season
: As ever, West Ham fans will be dreaming of cracking the top-six, as unrealistic and difficult as that is. More realistically, they should be battling Everton and Wolves for the title of “best of the rest.”


Leicester City

Finishing position/points total: 9th / 52 points
High point: Winning five of their first six games after Brendan Rodgers was named new manager in late February.
Low point
: Six games without a win (five losses) to begin 2019. Claude Puel didn’t survive the skid.

Our opinion: Right around mid-table is where Leicester should aim to be season after season. Only to nitpick, to do so without the gigantic swings between highs and lows (15 wins and 16 losses, with just 7 draws) should be the attainable target moving forward.
Star player
: Youri Tielemans
Most memorable goal
: Demarai Gray scored perhaps the most emotional game of the PL season: Leicester’s first, and the winner against Cardiff City, following the tragic death of chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Manager grade: Brendan Rodgers: Incomplete
Hopes for next season
: If Rodgers views Leicester as a long-term project for himself, he should look to continue the youth movement currently taking place at the King Power Stadium and build a squad that could push for top-six on their best day a year or two down the road.


Everton

Finishing position/points total: 8th / 54 points
High point: Beating Chelsea, West Ham and Arsenal in successive games, without conceding a single goal in the process (March 17 to April 7).
Low point
: Losing to Liverpool, on that goal.

Our opinion: Marco Silva is clearly the most talented and ambitious manager Everton have had in a long time, and that’ll show through even more so after a second summer of transfers to build a squad that better fits his style (e.g., younger, more mobile defenders).
Star player
: Gylfi Sigurdsson
Most memorable goal
: Sigurdsson’s long-range was the pick of the litter in the Toffees’ 4-0 rout of Man United.

Manager grade: Marco Silva: B-
Hopes for next season
: Of all the sides in the top-10, Everton are probably best positioned to mount a challenge on the top-six, given not only the talent up and down their squad, but also the experience at very high levels in the game. Most likely, though, they’ll be seventh or eighth again.


Wolverhampton Wanderers

Finishing position/points total: 7th / 57 points
High point: Other than being back in the PL? How about wins over Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal, all in your first season back in the PL? No wonder Wolves landed seventh.
Low point
: Huddersfield Town finished bottom of the league — with just 16 points, 10 adrift of 19th place. Six of those 16 points (37.5 percent) came against Wolves, as they did the double over Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side.

Our opinion: Wolves were one of the PL’s most active and aggressive clubs during last summer’s transfer window; they also happened to be some of the best buyers, as Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, Joao Moutinho and Jonny were rock-solid figures in the first team. That’s a very strong foundation upon which to build.
Star player
: Raul Jimenez
Most memorable goal
: Jimenez’s outside-the-foot cross to Jota, and Jota’s ball back to Jimenez for the finish, was the clincher against Cardiff and delightful to watch.

Manager grade: Nuno Espirito Santo: A
Hopes for next season
: Should they wind up in the Europa League next season (Manchester City would have to beat Watford in the FA Cup final), Wolves will have multiple rounds of qualify to wade through before even reaching the group stage. They would be best suited not having to deal with such a fixture list.


Manchester United

Finishing position/points total: 6th / 66 points
High point
: The lengthy honeymoon period (12 games unbeaten, including 10 wins) for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s interim appointment after Jose Mourinho was fired.
Low point
: The remainder of the season cratering (just two wins from their final eight games, including four defeats) after Solskjaer was named permanent manager on March 28.

Our opinion: This is a club in desperate need of a massive overhaul, from top to bottom: perhaps beginning with the owners, to the club executives, to the technical decision makers, perhaps the manager as well, and the first-team squad.
Star player
: Marcus Rashford
Most memorable goal
: Another goal conceded by Cardiff. Anthony Martial and Co., kicked off the Solskjaer era in dazzling fashion.

Manager grade: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: C
Hopes for next season
: Let’s say Man United hit on every one of their signings this summer — we’re guessing $200 million’s worth of them — which includes a new backline, a deep-lying midfielder, an attacking midfielder and at least one winger. They could finish in the top-four.

Premier League preview: Liverpool v. Wolves

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  • Liverpool has not lost a home PL match since Apr 23, 2017
  • Wolves has secured the best PL finish by a promoted club since 2001
  • LFC is unbeaten in home finales since a famous loss to Arsenal in 1989

As if hoping Brighton achieves a result against the Manchester City juggernaut, an extremely dangerous Wolves side stands in the way of Liverpool and any chance at a Premier League title as the two meet at Anfield on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. ET, live on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE HERE

In order to win the title, Liverpool must win at all costs, plus see Man City drop points as well. It’s that simple – yet not at all. Wolves has been a thorn in the side of every top team in the league this season, having beaten all four of the Premier League’s representatives in European finals this season. Wolves’ win over the Reds came back in early January in the FA Cup, while Liverpool won the previous league meeting 2-0 just before Christmas.

The Reds are expected to have Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson available in the league finale after both picked up injuries during the midweek Champions League comeback. Mohamed Salah is expected to be in play as well despite his concussion that left him on the sidelines midweek. Roberto Firmino is still not healthy, but should be ready to go for the Champions League final.

For Wolves, who sit in seventh and are locked into that spot in the table, they could have an unchanged side for the 15th time this season, quite a remarkable bill of health in a league where injuries have decimated other squads.

There is one other ending scenario, however unlikely, that bears mentioning: should Liverpool and Wolves draw, and Manchester City is unfathomably beaten by four goals, the two teams would tie atop the Premier League table and there would be a one-match playoff to determine the title. One can dream!

What they’re saying

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on their mentality: “It was a week of miracles, of big football moments, and from our point of view if there could be a big football moment on the weekend, that would be nice. The week is not over yet. Sunday still counts, so we still go for it. Nothing changed, we knew it before. The only thing we can do is win the game.”

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santos on playing with nothing on the line: “We don’t think about other things. We prepare ourselves in exactly the same way as we always do. There is no exception. There was no game that we didn’t prepare the same way with the same details and the same approach, so we’re not going to change in the last game of the season.”

Prediction

As much as Liverpool fans want to take their chance at winning a Premier League title seriously, there is also some pragmatism involved here as well. Should the Reds make it halfway through and see Man City is rolling over Brighton, Jurgen Klopp will no doubt take a sensible approach to this match knowing a Champions League final is looming and the squad can’t take any more hits. That seems the most likely scenario, as the two sides play to a relatively uneventful 1-1 draw after Klopp shuts it down with 30 minutes to go and Wolves has little to play for.

Wolves beat Fulham, all but seal seventh (video)

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  • Dendoncker scores winner
  • Wolves stay in 7th place
  • Fulham’s run of wins ends

Wolverhampton Wanderers all but secured seventh place in the Premier League table as they beat Fulham 1-0 at Molineux on Saturday.

Leander Dendoncker‘s volley was enough to seal all three points, as Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side went close on several occasions as Diogo Jota was a constant menace.

With the win Wolves move on to 57 points, and that means that unless Leicester City win their final two games and Wolves lose to Liverpool on the final day of the season, the newly-promoted club will finish in seventh which would secure European qualification if Watford lose to Man City in the FA Cup final later this month.

Already-relegated Fulham ended their run of wins after three-straight and they will finish in 19th place.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Early on Jota went down on the edge of the box under a hefty challenge, and was then booked for simulation after going down in the box.

Jota was then denied by Sergio Rico who made a fine stop down to his left to deny the in-form Wolves forward.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

That man Jota then flashed an effort just wide of the far post as Wolves continued to push forward. Joao Moutinho‘s whipped cross then found Leander Dendoncker but his header hit the crossbar.

Wolves failed to break through before the interval and Fulham had a decent chance as Joe Bryan forced Rui Patricio into a stop.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

In the second half Jota dragged another effort just wide as Wolves huffed and puffed, but didn’t work Rico.

At the other end Aleksandar Mitrovic squandered a wonderful chance as Ryan Sessegnon set him up but the Serbian blasted over from a great position.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Ruben Neves then smashed in a low effort which was saved by Rico, and Matt Doherty was brilliantly denied by Rico at the back post.

Wolves won it late on as Doherty crossed for Dendoncker who volleyed home to spark wild celebrations at Molinuex.

Jota smashed the crossbar late on, but Wolves were worthy winners as they all but secured seventh place.