After a successful outing in the Premier League Asia Trophy, Wolves return to Molineux this Thursday for the Europa League Qualifiers where they will face Crusaders. After looking at these two sides on paper, it is clear to see that Wolves should cruise to a simple victory over the two-legged fixture, especially after their success in the Premier League last season. For the Irish side, they will be looking to make it to the Third Qualifying Round for the first time in their club’s history.
Wolves have managed to maintain the same form they demonstrated throughout the previous Premier League season during their pre-season fixtures so far. They have already been crowned champions of the Premier League Asia Trophy after beating Premier League winners Manchester City 3-2 on penalties. Before this, Nuno Espírito Santo’s men had faced Newcastle United in the semi-finals of the competition and eased to a comprehensive 4-0 win, showing no signs of conceding in the contest, either. This successful win means Wolves have now gone two full games without conceding a single goal in regulation time.
Crusaders will arrive at Molineux in some strong form, which has been with them since the end of their own domestic season. Over the six games they have played during pre-season, Crusaders are yet to lose a single game, with them picking up five wins alongside one draw. The first of their club friendlies ended in an impressive 3-0 win over Loughgall, which was followed by a second victory over Scottish Premiership side Motherwell, who they beat 1-0. Crusaders continued their goalscoring form in the next fixture against Ards, who they swept aside with a 4-1 win. Stephen Baxter’s men had to settle for a 0-0 draw in their next match, but they soon returned to winning ways in the following two-legged Europa League fixture against B36 Torshavn, who they beat 5-2 on aggregate.
Nuno Espírito Santo has enough quality amongst his side to rotate his squad and still come up with a win, however, we are expecting him to stick with a similar lineup to what we saw face Manchester City in their previous fixture. Wolves will, as ever, stick to their preferred 3-5-2 formation with the both Jonny Castro and Adama Traore expected to start out wide. Diogo Jota and Morgan Gibbs-White look set to start side-by-side up front for this fixture after both got on the scoresheet against Newcastle. Rui Patricio should keep his spot in goal after keeping clean sheets over the last two fixtures, as well as saving three of Manchester City’s penalties in his last outing.
Crusaders will have a fully fit squad at their disposal on Thursday with the team suffering from no injuries or current suspensions. Stephen Baxter is likely to stick with his preferred 4-3-3 formation on Thursday, with both Paul Heatley, who bagged a brace in his last outing, and Ross Clarke on the wings. Jordan Owens will lead the line-up front, with Declan Caddel sat just behind. Jordan Forsythe is expected to keep his spot in midfield after bagging a goal in his last outing.
With the home advantage on their side, this should be a walk in the park for the Premier League side, with their being such a gulf in quality between the two clubs. Also, considering Wolves head into this fixture having beaten Manchester City in their previous outing, we could be looking at a big win for the hosts. It took the Premier League side just 15 minutes to bag their first goal against Newcastle United and with both Jota and Gibbs-White upfront, an early goal is certainly on the cards.