Nuno Espirito Santo has hinted Wolves’ new signings Jesus Vallejo and Patrick Cutrone could make their first starts in the Europa League tie against Pyunik at Molineux on Thursday.
On-loan Real Madrid defender Vallejo is waiting for his debut after travelling to Armenia for the third qualifying round first leg last week. Cutrone came off the bench in Yerevan for his bow, winning the penalty that saw Ruben Neves score to make the final score 4-0. He also appeared late on in Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Leicester in the Premier League.
Asked if those two were in more need of game time than other players, the Molineux head coach said: “Of course, first of all because they joined us later than the core of the squad. Then we have to attend all the aspects – minutes of games, how many sessions they’ve had, whether they’re ready to compete. We take a good look at all of these aspects, then we will make hopefully a good decision.”
Nuno revealed how delicate the negotiations were to secure the signature of 22-year-old Vallejo from he Spanish giants. “We try to get maximum information as we can and at the same time trying to be discreet, which is not easy,” he explained. “Regarding his characteristics as a footballer, we know him, we had a lot of observation, then we try to get information on his character, and we’re delighted that he’s joined us, he’s a fantastic boy.”
Regarding the inclusion of Cutrone, Nuno said: “We still have to make a decision to prepare the starting XI, but having all the squad available gives us good options.”
But the Portuguese admitted his availability alongside Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota gives the option of reverting to the 3-4-3 formation that was so successful in winning the Championship and was used in the early months in the Premier League last season. “Yes, versatile players allow us to make that decision for the team,” he added. “We have a lot of players able to play in different positions on the pitch, not just one or two. It’s a small squad but a versatile squad.”
Whichever personnel he goes with, Nuno is looking for Wolves to repeat their ruthlessness they showed in Armenia when they clinched a club record away win in European competition, rather than the wastefulness they displayed at times at the King Power Stadium.
“I think that’s a big difference in any game – being clinical and taking your chances is one of the aspects that regarding the last game we must improve upon,” he admitted. “Before the game at Leicester we were able to be really clinical with our chances, it didn’t happen on Sunday. So, we have to look to better that. No matter what competition, this is a main aspect of the game. If you’re clinical and get an advantage and score, it can change the game.”
Wolves have a fully-fit squad to choose from, with Matt Doherty showing no ill-effects of just over an hour in Yerevan on his comeback from a knee injury, and a full game at Leicester. “He had a problem in pre-season; he was different from the squad, but he didn’t stop totally, so we were able to work him in the physical aspects and he had a fantastic answer in both games,” said Nuno. “He made a big effort for the team, and it was fantastic from him to us, it was a big help.”
Molineux is set for another near 30,000 crowd for the second home Europa League tie of the season after 29,708 watched the 2-0 win over Crusaders on July 25. No fans are expected to make he gruelling 6,370-mile round trip from Armenia, but Nuno is again delighted with the home support. “It’s amazing. Every game is sold out,” he enthused. “We expect it again and we cannot thank the fans enough. It’s amazing – every time you step inside Molineux, and you feel that atmosphere, it gives you a buzz and the team appreciate it.”