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Doherty: Wolves can thrive in Prem and in Europe

Matt Doherty insists Wolves can handle the pressures of thriving in the Premier League and in Europe.
Wolves kick off their league campaign at Leicester on Sunday just three days after a gruelling 6,370-mile round trip to Armenia to face FC Pyunik. Players had electric stimulation on the plane to help with recovery after the 4-0 win.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s small squad have already played three games this season in the Europa League and they face the return against Pyunik on Thursday before hosting Manchester United in their first Premier League home game of the campaign the following Monday. Doherty, who scored the first goal at Pyunik on his return from a knee injury, reckons they can cope with the extra games without it affecting their domestic form.
“It’s new to us. We didn’t have this last season and the first game of the season is on Sunday, so it will be interesting to see how we recover, but I trust Antonio (Dias, fitness coach) and his backroom staff, they know exactly what they’re doing.
“There will be no excuses of tiredness – we’ll be ready. We’re getting to play all over Europe, in different countries and atmospheres. It’s what you want to do, play in European football. You want to go as far as you can and challenge in these competitions and prove yourself against the best players. The ambition of the club is to be successful and the Europa League goes a long way in that.”
Wolves played Leicester at the King Power Stadium almost exactly a year ago in their first Premier League away game and lost 2-0. Doherty tasted mixed fortunes that day, scoring an own goal to put the Foxes ahead before he was the victim of a challenge from Jamie Vardy that saw the Leicester striker sent off.
The Ireland international thinks it will be different this time though. “We played them quite early (last season) and a lot of us were new to the league, but this time around, with our experience, we’ll hopefully know how to manage it a bit better, it will be a tough game, but we’re prepared,” he said. “Personally, I had a sticky game against Leicester last season and I managed to bounce back from that, but you can never take anything for granted.”
Wolves finished seventh last season while Leicester were ninth, five points behind them. Both teams have ambitions of trying to finish higher this term and Doherty reckons the Midlands rivals share similar aims.
“We’re striving to finish as high as we can, we have the same ambitions (as Leicester) and we want to get as good a start as possible and they’ll be thinking the exact same thing,” he said. “I’m really excited. We’ve been waiting since last season, you go on your summer holidays but you’re waiting for the fixtures and to get back into it. We’ve had a long pre-season and it’s been quite tough, but we’re ready to go on Sunday.”
Doherty returned to action several weeks after picking up a ligament injury in pre-season training that caused him to miss the trip to China for the Asia Trophy and the two Europa League ties against Crusaders. The 27-year-old admits he isn’t as sharp as his team-mates but will soon catch up by playing games. “I feel fit. I’m probably not up the level of fitness as the rest of the lads, but I don’t think it will take me long to get into that shape,” he insisted. “I had 60 minutes on Thursday where I felt OK and, the way the schedule is, we have a lot of games coming up so I’m sure I’ll be able to get enough game time to catch up fast.”