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Neves determined to put one over his best mate for Wolves’ cause

Ruben Neves is determined there will no Portuguese old pals act when Wolves take on Braga on Thursday night – because he wants to put one over his best mate.
The 22-year-old midfielder and Braga right winger Ricardo Horta, 25, are close friends going back to their days in Portugal’s Under-21 team. Both players won over 20 caps for them from 2014-17.
They will be on opposing sides for Wolves’ first Europa League group stage clash at Molineux and Neves wants to make sure his mate leaves with his tail firmly between his legs.
“It’s good for me and for the Portuguese players. We know Braga – my best friend plays for them so it’s going to be special for me and for him as well,” said Neves. “We played together in the national team in Portugal five years ago and we have a good relationship, our families as well. So he’s a big friend of mine.
“But on the pitch we are not friends – we are with our team-mates and we want to win. That’s what we want to do and we will focus on our game and try to get our first win in the group stages.”
Neves has a special message for Horta, who has scored four goals in three Europa ties already this season, and has a younger brother, Andre, playing in their midfield. “I’ll tell him ‘bon voyage, but hopefully the three points will be left here!’” said the former Porto man.
The Wolves midfielder wants to put a stop to Horta’s scoring streak in Europe, but also stop the rot for the Molineux men after conceding eight goals in their last two games.
“Of course yes, but it’s not about Ricardo, it’s about not conceding any goals,” he added. “That’s the main objective of the team. If you don’t concede, you’re closer to winning games and that’s what we want to do, concede as few as possible and try to score.
“It’s something we know we have to improve on because we’re used to being a team that doesn’t concede a lot. We’re working on that, and I’m sure we’re going to be back to our best.”
There will be no excuses for not knowing the opposition as far as Wolves’ Portuguese contingent are concerned. Neves has faced Braga four times before, when he was at nearby Porto, winning twice and drawing the another, from 2014-16, and knows a lot of their players. “I played against a lot of players when I was at Porto and I’ve played with some in the national team,” he said. “So we know enough about Braga and we’ll try to do our best while focusing on us and playing our game.”
Just 35 miles separate Porto and Braga, who regularly challenge Portugal’s ‘big three’ of Porto, Benfica and Sporting. Neves is looking forward to renewing a rivalry now he’s playing in England and recognises Braga as a big club in their own right.
“It was a good rivalry. The cities are close to each other so they are two of the big teams in Portugal so we know it’s going to be a difficult game,” said Neves. “They’re a big club and I don’t think Porto have to come to this; I think we have to focus on Braga, that’s the most important thing for us because it’s a big and important game.”
Wolves’ 15-match unbeaten home run was ended by Chelsea on Saturday and with Braga to come away and five more matches in Group K before Christmas, Neves is determined Nuno Espirito Santo’s side exploit their home advantage as much as they can.
“We have to take this advantage for us,” he urged. “We have a great atmosphere in our stadium and we have to play with that as well and I know our fans are going to be with us, like they are always. So I’m sure we’re going to do our best to get the win.”