Wolverhampton Wanderers

UEL Roundup: Wolves thrash Pyunik, and more

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For the second time in as many games, Pyunik was no match for Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Wolves dominated throughout and a quick-fire three-goal barrage in the second half gave the Premier League club a 4-0 victory (8-0 on aggregate) over its Armenian opponents, Pyunik, on Thursday at Molineux Stadium. New Wolves signing Pedro Neto scored the opening goal on his Wolves debut, with homegrown star Morgan Gibbs-White scoring his first of the season as well.

After creating numerous chances in the first half, Wolves finally found the breakthrough in the 54th minute. Adama Traore found space down the right side of the box, and he cut back towards the center where Neto slid and re-directed a shot home. Gibbs-White then followed in the 58th minute with a similar finish from four yards out, before Ruben Vinagre fired home from the top of the box in the 64th minute. Diogo Jota put the icing on the cake in the 87th minute to give Wolves a massive European win at home.

With the win, Wolverhampton Wanderers advance to the Europa League Play-Off Round where it will face Torino, one round before the group stage. Matches will be played on the next two Thursdays, August 22 and August 29.


Rangers advance past Midtjylland

While Celtic endured a disappointing defeat on Tuesday night, its rivals Rangers took care of business at home to advance to the final round of qualifying in the Europa League.

Rangers defeated Danish side FC Midtjylland, 3-1, at Ibrox, to win handily, 7-3 on aggregate. Rangers’ Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos scored a pair, as did new signing Sheyi Ojo. Midtjylland grabbed a second-half goal from Evander, but the club needed four more goals just to advance, and it ran out of time.

Rangers advance to face Legia Warsaw in the next round. American right back Matt Polster didn’t make the 18 for the Scottish club.

Here’s a roundup of the rest of the Europa League action from Thursday:

HJK 2 – 2 Riga
Dinamo Tbilisi 1 – 1 Feyenoord
Spartak Moskva 2 – 1 Thun
Sūduva 2 – 1 Maccabi Tel Aviv
BATE 0 – 0 Sarajevo
AIK 1 – 1 Sheriff
Shakhtyor 1 – 1 Torino
Apollon 3 – 1 Austria Wien
Mladá Boleslav 0 – 1 FCSB
Yeni Malatyaspor 1 – 0 Partizan
Zrinjski 1 – 0 Malmö FF
Zorya 1 – 0 CSKA Sofia
Bnei Yehuda 2 – 1 Neftçi
The New Saints 0 – 4 Ludogorets
Hapoel Be’er Sheva 3 – 1 Norrköping
Trabzonspor 2 – 1 Sparta Praha
Valletta 0 – 4 Astana
Viktoria Plzeň 2 – 1 Antwerp AET
AEK Athens  1 – 1 Universitatea
PSV 0 – 0 Haugesund
Aris 3 – 1 Molde AET
Strasbourg 1 – 0 Lokomotiv Plovdiv
AZ 4 – 0 Mariupol’
Gent 3 – 0 AEK Larnaca
Eintracht Frankfurt 1 – 0 Vaduz
Sporting Braga 3 – 1 Brøndby
Rangers 3 – 1 Midtjylland
Aberdeen 0 – 2 Rijeka
Espanyol 3 – 0 Luzern

Nothing to separate Leicester, Wolves in opener

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Leicester City couldn’t find a way past Europa League weary Wolves, who saw a goal overturned in a dull 0-0 draw at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Leander Dendoncker bundled a loose ball over the line, but it had glanced off Wily Boly’s arm and VAR overturned the marker.


Three things we learned

1. Possession without finish is nothing; Leicester had 70 percent of the ball but could not finish despite taking almost 400 more touches than Wolves

2. It’s early to say that Wolves’ failure to do much besides clear the ball was down to depth, but the club certainly looked like one who won 4-0 over Pyunik in Armenia on Thursday

3. VAR is not just a bummer for the aggrieved club, it hurts fantasy owners. Dendoncker is a very cheap option and, frankly, we momentarily hated VAR.

Man of the Match: Wilfried Ndidi.


[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

PL Sunday preview: Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal, Wolves all open season

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There will be no shortage of headlines Sunday as Chelsea travel to Old Trafford to commence their era under Frank Lampard and American superstar Christian Pulisic. The mouth-watering bout will be only one of three matchups, however.

A new-look Arsenal – without Mezut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac – will start to write its own story, with Steve Bruce‘s Newcastle as the first chapter’s antagonist. Meanwhile, Leicester City will look to take advantage of a well-traveled Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have been busy qualifying for Europa League ahead of the Premier League’s start.

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Arsenal v. Newcastle — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

With a slew of new signings – including record signing Nicolas Pepe – and an instructional, yet painful year behind them, Unai Emery‘ second time around is expected to offer bigger and better things for Arsenal. A trip to St. James Park is first on the menu for the Gunners. Injuries and fitness setbacks in mind, Arsenal will look to hit the ground running with their undeniable high-power attack, while fielding a once familiar foe in the backline – David Luiz.

Newcastle, on the other hand, will start from zero under Steve Bruce. There isn’t a healthy amount of optimism behind the Magpies, but new seasons always call for a new set of hopes. At home, Newcastle biggest wish will be to smash paradigms from the get-go.

Wolves v. Leicester City — 9:00 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

Wolves are taking advantage of their head start: the Europa League. Thus far, in two rounds of qualification play, Wolves have outscored opponents 10-1, something that will surely benefit Nuno Espírito Santo’s side when they travel to King Power Stadium. Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota and Ruben Neves all look in midseason form already, too. There’s no better scenario for the West Midlands’ side to prove their legitimacy than a season-opening victory against the Foxes.

But the same goes for Leicester, who will look to make a statement against one of the two sides that edged them to that same European position. The Foxes will certainly miss Harry McGuire, but Brendan Rogers’ men have enough pieces to make up for the lost quality.

Chelsea v. Manchester United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

There’s arguably no better way to wrap up the first weekend of a new campaign: Chelsea v. Manchester United at the Theatre of Dreams.

On Chelsea’s end, the storylines fit the expectations. Club legend Frank Lampard kickstarts his coaching era with the Blues, while American sensation Christian Pulisic makes his Premier League debut – following a $73 million move from Borussia Dortmund to London last January. No Eden Hazard this time around for this new-era Chelsea, who will look to challenge the likes of Man City, Liverpool and Tottenham for the league title in the months to come.

Having added the likes of Maguire – the most expensive defender in history – Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Daniel James, the Red Devils are hoping for a better season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who they finished sixth with last year. With Romelu Lukaku long gone in Italy at Inter Milan and no immediate replacement coming inline, all eyes are on 21-year-old Marcus Rashford. Will he and his teammates show up against Chelsea? Or will Lampard – this time as a coach – walkaway from Old Trafford with a grin on his face?

The stage is set..

Jimenez, Jota lead Wolves to Europa League blowout

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Nothing’s impossible, but Wolves built an improbable lead after one leg to take a step closer to the Europa League group stage.

Mexican striker Raul Jimenez scored twice and Diogo Jota had three assists as Wolves buried Armenian side Pyunik 4-0 in Yerevan on Thursday.

[ MORE: PL transfer grades ]

The second leg comes at the Molineux in one week, and Wolves begin the Premier League season on Sunday morning with a visit to Leicester City (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com)

Matt Doherty and Ruben Neves also scored, as Wolves led 2-0 at the break following Raul’s 42nd minute goal. He completed his brace one minute after halftime.

Should Wolves manage its lead, it will have to win more round to reach the group stage.

Which outsiders have hope of breaking into Premier League’s Top Six?

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With unproven managers at Chelsea and Manchester United and a possible David Luiz-Shkrodan Mustafi center back partnership at Arsenal, there are scenarios in which the seas part and a new team finishes in the Top Six for the first time since Chelsea and Liverpool crashed out of the picture in 2015-16.

Wolves will like their chances, having made Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker permanent members of the team and buying Patrick Cutrone, Pedro Neto, and Bruno Jordao from Serie A.

[ MORE: PST’s PL preview roundtable ]

But they’ll face a loaded fixture list thanks to the Europa League (assuming they don’t exit at the hands of Armenia’s Pyunik in the third qualifying round or a similar foe in the playoff round). The first group stage date is sandwiched between Chelsea and Crystal Palace on the league docket, the second between Watford and Man City.

That’s a test of depth, one of which most of their players are taking for the first time.

Then there’s Everton, which has amassed some serious experience and guile even amongst its youngsters. Moise Kean arrives from Juventus, while Andre Gomes, Djibril Sidibe, and Fabian Delph are no strangers to silverware.

If Jean-Philippe Gbamin can quickly adapt to the league to combine with Delph and provide 75 percent of what Idrissa Gana Gueye gave the club, look out.

West Ham is another interesting one: Issa Diop was a revelation at center back and the club is close to keeping a hold of Felipe Anderson.

The Irons have finally added their prototypical center forward and should be nice and settled at the London Stadium. The question is whether West Ham can rewrite their organizational reputation this season.

There are arguments to be made for Watford and even Aston Villa, but those seem a bit farfetched unless the Hornets are seriously out-scouting the rest of the world.

So we’ll finish with Leicester City, who needs to hope that Jamie Vardy can keep holding off the hands of time and youngsters Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi can take a hold of the team to take the next step as stars.

There are enough ancillary pieces in Ayoze Perez and Demarai Gray, as well as gleaming potential stars like Harvey Barnes and James Maddison.

But the question of how they’ll replace Harry Maguire is a real one, as is the big Brendan Rodgers effort: Can he focus the club the way he did when Liverpool had a Europe-free year in 2013-14, and take advantage of the fixture list to ride into the top tier?