Nuno Espirito Santo

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Nuno demands ‘immediate reaction’ from struggling Wolves

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Replicating the lofty heights of last season has proven a tough task for Wolverhampton Wanderers through the first month and a half of the 2019-20 campaign, both in the Premier League and in Europe.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines: Week 6 ]

After finishing seventh in their first season back in the PL, Wolves began their first-ever Europa League adventure this summer, largely breezing through the qualification rounds to reach the group stage. That part went swimmingly. Thursday’s group play opener didn’t go so well, as Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side fell to Portuguese side Braga at home, 1-0.

Wolves began the PL with three straight draws, conceding just two goals in total. Since then, they have lost two in a row and conceded eight goals.

[ MORE: Man City’s David Silva in “likely” Inter Miami move ]

Again, we’re not even two months into the season, but Santo knows the next few games are going to be hugely important for his side. Not only does he need to keep his players’ heads from dropping during these trying times, but they also need to begin stringing together results, both in the PL and in Europe. Wolves need to bounce back, and immediately — quotes from the BBC:

“This is important. We face the reality and the reality says we not performing well so we have to analyze it and find solutions in the team to improve.

“We must react immediately. We have to take decisions and find solutions for the team because we have to come out of this situation and improve our performance so we can bounce back.”

“We are all disappointed.”

Up next for Santo’s side is a potentially tricky trip south London to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, where the Eagles have already drawn top-six hopefuls Everton and beaten newly promoted Aston Villa.

Europa League preview: Torino peeved at ref crew v. Wolves

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Serie A side Torino is here for the mind games, and claims Wolves will have an unfair advantage due to the referee appointments for Thursday’s Europa League playoff round first leg.

[ MORE: UCL qualifying wrap ]

Wolves will head to the Olimpico di Torino for the first leg, and Torino is reportedly “bewildered” that UEFA has appointed Portuguese referees for the match because Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo and seven of his first team players hail from Portugal.

The head referee, Artur Soares Dias, has worked numerous high-profile games deep into the Europa League, Champions League, and EURO qualifying.

Nuno doesn’t care.

“We represent the colours of Wolverhampton, it’s an English team,” he said. “Our native language is English, everybody speaks English to each other. There is no issue.”

Torino has also cruised through the qualifying rounds and has not had the benefit of being tested by league play. Serie A begins this weekend.

Kickoff is at 3 p.m. Thursday, with the second leg at the Molineux set for Aug. 29 at 2:45 p.m. ET. The winner qualifies for the UEL group stage.

Also in action this Thursday are a few North Americans. Among them: Romain Gall is coming off a league goal for Malmo, and may start at home to Israeli Premier League side Bnei Yehuda.

Timothy Chandler remains a part of Eintracht Frankfurt’s crew and will be in France to meet Strasbourg, while Brooklyn-born Canadian striker Jonathan David is with Gent against Rijeka.

The rest of the post may deliver entertainment based on the schedule. The UEL main stage provides some unusual names from the European landscape, so it’s even wilder prior to that.

Thursday’s Europa League playoff round first legs

Astana v. BATE Borisov — 10 a.m. ET
Avan Academy v. Dudelange — 11 a.m. ET
FK Suduva v. Ferencvaros — 1 p.m. ET
Malmo v. Bnei Yehuda — 1 p.m. ET
Feyenoord v. Hapoel Beer-Sheva — 1:30 p.m. ET
Ludogorets v. Maribor — 1:30 p.m. ET
Copenhagen v. Riga — 1:45 p.m. ET
AEK Athens v. Trabzonspor — 2 p.m. ET
Legia Warsaw v. Rangers — 2 p.m. ET
FCSB v. Vitoria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Gent v. Rijeka — 2:30 p.m. ET
PSV Eindhoven v. Apollon Limassol — 2:30 p.m. ET
Strasbourg v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET
AZ Alkmaar v. Antwerp — 2:30 p.m. ET
Celtic v. AIK — 2:45 p.m. ET
Linfield v. Qarabag — 2:45 p.m. ET
Braga v. Spartak Moscow — 2:45 p.m. ET
Espanyol v. Zorya — 3 p.m. ET
Torino v. Wolves — 3 p.m. ET
Partizan v. Molde — 3 p.m. ET
Slovan Bratislava v. PAOK — 3 p.m. ET

Wolves on VAR review of golazo: ‘I was hoping to stay happy’

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Nuno Espirito Santo issued the definitive quote of the VAR era after Wolves’ equalizer withstood video review in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Monday at the Molineux.

“I was hoping to stay happy.”

[ RECAP: Wolves 1-1 Man Utd ]

Espirito Santo saw VAR dramatically play a role in Wolves fortunes for the second-straight week, and the manager was not too happy with it on opening weekend when Willy Boly‘s handball was found to have assisted Leander Dendoncker‘s goal.

This time, VAR held up its end of the bargain in Wolves favor, as the cross that led to Ruben Neves’ incredible goal was found to be onside. From the BBC:

“I don’t know how they will solve it – it’s the emotion, you celebrate a goal so much and then you stay in silence. Don’t take that away from the people.”

The problem, of course, is money. So much is riding on qualifying for Europe, staying in the Premier League, etc. When sports became a big business, and managers aren’t complaining about their salaries, the science overtook the spirit.

Espirito Santo is correct that the wait to confirm a goal takes away from the joy of sport. It also will deny of us of the next “Hand of God” (and England would not have won its lone World Cup had goal line technology been around).

But ultimately, it will keep the correct score on the board. And that matters.

Wolves boss Espirito Santo not a fan of VAR

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It comes as little surprise that Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo was upset to have a goal chalked off by VAR in a scoreless draw with Leicester City.

What may come as a surprise, though, is Espirito Santo’s full-throated questioning of the use of video review at all.

[ RECAP: Leicester-Wolves ]

Espirito Santo will earn a lot of fans amongst the VAR skeptics with this analysis/rant regarding the overturning of Leander Dendoncker‘s goal due to Willy Boly handling the ball before the Belgian bundled over the line.

“I haven’t seen the images but I trust them. If they saw it, what can we do?” he said. “Things that weren’t before shouldn’t be now. We have such a nice Premier League, such a product, we cannot lose that.”

He continued (via BBC.com):

“It’s what fans come for, to celebrate, not to celebrate a no goal; That’s not the real celebration of football. It’s not good for the atmosphere of football. The Leicester fans were celebrating the no goal, that’s not the mindset of the game.

“What I’m concerned about is, let’s not ruin the game. Two minutes the game stopped. The anxiety of us celebrating, then we waited. It’s not the spirit of the game.”

Do you agree, or have you just accepted that this is the future of sport?

The three points would’ve been glorious for a Wolves side which played Thursday in Armenia, but one will be valuable given it came against a Foxes side expected to compete for a Top Seven place in the Premier League.

Europa League preview: Wolves prepare for odd digs

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Wolves bring a 2-0 lead into the second leg of its Europa League tie with Crusaders FC, but will have an unusual experience in Belfast.

For one thing, the Northern Irish club plays on turf. For another, the Seaview Stadium holds fewer than 3,400.

[ MORE: UEL fixture list, scores ]

“Let’s see how they adapt,” said Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo. “They don’t have a lot of experience but they assure me that with water it is almost like a natural grass.”

Wolves will not have new signing Patrick Cutrone in Belfast, but will have the crew which qualified for the UEL and has the side 90 minutes from the third qualifying round and a date with either Czech side Jablonek or Armenia’s Pyunik.

It’s one of a bevy of UEL second legs set for Thursday, with one in Wednesday’s book: Molde beat Cukaricki 3-1.