Nuno Espirito Santo says the Premier League Asia Trophy will be a real test for Wolves in China.
Wolves get the first pre-season game under way on Wednesday when they face Newcastle in the semi-final of the competition in Nanjing. They then play either Manchester City or West Ham in Shanghai on Saturday before flying home on Sunday, just four days before their first competitive game of the season, the Europa League second qualifying round against the winners of Crusaders and B36 Torshavn.
Head coach Nuno believes the combination of facing a top-flight team in a different continent makes it all the more difficult for his squad.
“The big difference is the quality of the opponent, no doubt about it, and, of course, a different environment,” said the boss. “Normally we play these kinds of matches in Europe, so there’s a big difference. The Asia Trophy allows us to really test ourselves.”
Newcastle coach Ben Dawson is expecting Wolves to be very competitive after finishing seventh last season. Dawson is in charge of the Magpies for the tournament along with coach Neil Redfearn as the Geordies continue their search for a new manager following the departure of Rafael Benitez.
“With it being a competitive fixture, it will have a bit more edge than the usual friendlies do at this stage,” Dawson told Newcastle’s official website.
“They will be on a real high from the momentum they gained from the end of last season. They are looking forward to Europa League fixtures also so I expect it will be a really tough game in difficult conditions.”
Wolves flew out to China on Sunday and the intense humidity has made it difficult for the players in training so far. Nuno says sessions have been adapted to help the players cope easier.
“It’s tough because of the high level of humidity and it becomes very harsh for the players, but we’re trying to take care of that situation, not to make the sessions very long and give them some time to rest,” he added.
“We are here to play, not necessarily to train. We’re realising it’s been tough for them.”
One player who is taking it all in is midfielder Sadou Diallo, one of the many Under-23 players who have made the trip. The 20-year-old, who was part of the Premier League 2 Division 2 title-winning squad last season, joined the first team for the week at St Georges Park before the squad travelled to China and is thrilled to get his chance.
Diallo revealed he learns a lot from players such as Joao Moutinho because he’s so quiet he allows himself to take everything in.
“Every session I learn something new from the senior players. You can speak to them, but I tend not to do that because I’m a bit shy and quiet,” he said. “When you’re in training, watching Moutinho, you can tell he’s a world class player.
“I’m the sort of person that when I watch someone I learn a lot, because I’m quite reserved and I don’t really speak a lot.”
Diallo added: “It was a real honour for me to be with the first-team (at St George’s Park). It shows the manager believes in you and there’s a chance to prove to him how good you are.
“It’s been a slightly different atmosphere to the Under-23s, but you’ve just got to manage yourself and show people that you’re ready to take the step.
“It’s intense, but you’ve just got to get rested, eat well, get your fuel in, and then be ready for it.”