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Wolves can put European doubters to the sword this season

For a host of teams, the Europa League has been nothing short of a poisoned chalice.

Many sides are reduced to starting their season in the murky depths of Europe, playing on grounds that wouldn’t be fit for cattle, let alone a bunch of professional footballers.

Yet, at the end of it, Champions League football looms for the winners.

The pros and the cons to the competition are both huge. Do well in Europe and it’ll significantly enhance your reputation, as well as producing greater income, but it could also be incredibly detrimental to a club’s domestic performances.

However, exiting in the early rounds can also be embarrassing, especially playing against the types of opposition that arise in qualifying.

Wolves enter the competition in the second qualifying phase this week as they take on Crusaders.

It seems like something straight out of a Medieval drama as opposed to a football team, but that’s the magic of the Europa League.

Wolves will be expected to come through that tie with ease but after seeing West Ham defeated by European minnows Astra Giurgiu, you can’t write anything off.

The Midlands outfit come into this campaign off the back of comparisons with Burnley, however.

After finishing seventh in the Premier League in 2017/18, they crashed and burned before enduring a nightmare start domestically.

Undeniably Wolves could struggle with their squad depth. In 2018/19, they used just 21 players in the top-flight, two of which in Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa have since departed.

They could, therefore, be staring down the barrel of the dreaded second season syndrome.

That’s unless they prove their quality and skill which many of their players have already displayed on the European stage.

After all, this is a squad filled with quality, even if it is a small one.

Among their ranks they have the likes of Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho, two men to have won the European Championships.

Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota, meanwhile, were in the squad when Portugal achieved Nations League glory this summer.

On July 15th 2018, just under two weeks before Burnley’s Europa League campaign got underway, the value of their squad was a mere £141.1m, per Transfermarkt.

Wolves, by comparison, go into this season’s competition with a squad value of £248.1m – accurate as of July 15th 2019 – and that yawning disparity serves as a telling indicator of the clear difference in quality.

However, they will have to overcome a problematic European tradition in doing so.

Since the team that finished seventh in the Premier League were granted access to the Champions League’s sister competition, no side has ever been beyond the ground stage.

Try as they might, Southampton, West Ham, Everton and Burnley all failed.

Three of them didn’t even go beyond the qualifying phase, which tells you all you need to know about the task on Wolves’ hands.

Nuno hasn’t yet added to his squad this summer, despite moves for Patrick Cutrone, who scored four times in the Europa League last term, and Ruben Dias being touted.

Those two players would add far greater depth to a side that lacks it considerably.

A sparsity of options is one of the main issues that could reap havoc as Wolves aim to be successful in continental football, but that’s no secret.

If you don’t know the words to the Joao Moutinho chant in the video below, are you even a real Wolves fan?…

What’s arguably set Wolves up best, though, is their pre-season.

Their players already look fit and ready to go, despite various members of their squad featuring in international tournaments.

Diogo Jota has come back and scored twice in the Premier League Asia Trophy, whilst young prodigy Morgan Gibbs-White is already showing incredibly promising signs. The only concern lies with Raul Jimenez, who has just won the Gold Cup with Mexico.

But the fact is that Wolves don’t warrant Burnley comparisons. They have greater resources and to put it simply, their players have more experience at the top level.

Beyond their Portuguese contingent, Jonny and Leander Dendoncker have also played in the Europa League, further supplementing that point.

The rigmarole of playing on a Thursday and then on a Sunday can be a straining one, but many of their players have already been put through this, jetting off around the continent before playing at the weekend too.

Breaking English tradition will be difficult, but there is evidence to suggest that Nuno’s men can do it and put their doubters to the sword.

Article title: Wolves can put European doubters to the sword this season

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