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Jota: Wolves can reach the Europa group stages

Diogo Jota has backed Wolves to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League.

Wolves will face either Northern Irish outfit Crusaders or Faroe Islanders B36 Torshavn in the second qualifying round of the competition on July 25 and August 1.

Should they get through, Nuno Santo Espirito’s squad face another six games to reach the group stages. Crusaders and Torshavn meet next Thursday and the following Thursday for the right to meet Wolves.

Nuno’s squad contains 10 players with experience of European competition – Jota himself has played in the Champions League with Porto, while Joao Moutinho lifted the Europa League with the same club. Following the trip to China, all focus will be on Wolves’ first double-headed qualifying tie

And attacker Jota is convinced they have the experience to get beyond the qualifying matches.

We have people with a lot of experience and they know what it is,” said the 22-year-old. “The manager has experience, so I think we’ll go through to the group stage.

In the knockout stages with two legs, that’s unfamiliar, so it’s always tricky and you need some experience to deal with it. It’s a different game, when you know you’ve already got a result and you know a draw is enough, but normally if you play to draw, you lose so it’s a good thing to learn.”

Wolves have qualified for Europe for the first time in over 39 years and Jota admits it feels like a coming of age after joining the club two years ago when they were in the Championship.

It’s special because I came to the club in the Championship and I’ve grown up with the club, so it’s a special moment to be back in a European competition, and for me because it’s my first time playing in the Europa League,” he added.

Jota has also won an international honour, having been part of the Portugal squad that won the inaugural Nations League, even though he is still to win his first full cap alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, plus Wolves team-mates Rui Patricio, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho.

It was a privilege to be there with all of them,” he said. “It was my first major competition, and to be at home, in my city, was a great thing for me and sharing the dressing room with the players normally I saw on the TV.

It was special and we won the tournament so I’ll always remember it. Even though I didn’t play, the experience was really good and I need to work hard this season to be there again.”

Sensibly, Jota is only too aware of the talent Portugal have and is happy to bide his time for his chance to impress on the international stage.

A football player always wants the next step and of course now I want to play,” he said. “But I know to play is a hard thing because Portugal have a lot of talent, many players that can get in the squad, so I need to work hard to be there.”