Ruben Neves insists fatigue is nothing to do with Wolves’ poor start in the Premier League.
Wolves go into Thursday’s first Europe League group stage tie at home to Sporting Braga with a 100 per cent record in Europe over six games but still seeking their first domestic win of the season which has left them second from bottom on three points after five matches. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have lost their last two games, conceding eight goals including the club’s heaviest defeat in three years, Saturday’s 5-2 reverse against Chelsea.
Head coach Nuno insists on keeping a small squad of 18, 19 players and they were all warned in pre-season they need to be ready to be used with the extra games this term. Wolves’ season started two weeks before the other Premier League clubs, while their Europa League exertions mean they have already played six times more than everyone else in the top flight. That figure will rise to 12 (apart from the other English teams in Europe and those involved in the Carabao Cup second round) by the time the group stages finish on December 12.
Neves refuses to blame the extra workload for their struggles in the Premier League, however. “I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it,” said the midfielder. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it and we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession.
“I don’t think the Europa League has anything to do with our position in the Premier League. We haven’t had the start we wanted but it’s been a beautiful journey in the Europa League – this is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”
Neves added: “It hasn’t been an easy start to the season because we’ve had extra qualifying games for the Europa League and the truth is the Premier League is the best league in the world. So you’re always going to have these moments in a season.
“We need to return to winning ways as soon as possible and start playing to our level and start getting wins on the table and start putting Wolves where they deserve to be.”
Wolves have suffered from several sloppy errors which have led to goals in the last two games. But Neves says confidence levels will stay high with the belief of Nuno and the Molineux crowd and he is confident they can turn their domestic form around.
“We have a lot of confidence from the fans and our coach,” he said. “We know what we can do and we have proved so in the past what we are capable of. So I think it’s about improving our game and getting back to winning ways as fast as we can.”
Braga, who have played four Europa League games so far, have had a similar start to Wolves in their Primeira Liga campaign. They lie third from bottom on four points after five games, after finishing fourth last season, 15 points clear of Vitória de Guimarães in fifth.
The Portuguese side are well known to many of Wolves’ staff and players and Neves admits there is no shortage of knowledge about them. “Braga are a team who are growing and one that has been doing quite well in the last few years,” he said. “As a team we have the information necessary but we focus on our team and we will do our best to get back to winning ways, which is the most important thing for us.”
The Braga clash is the first time Wolves have reached the group stages of a European competition. When the club reached the final in this competition’s guise as the inaugural UEFA Cup in 1972, all matches were played on a two-legged, knockout basis.
Neves is excited to be involved in an historic night for Wolves. “It’s going to be amazing for us because the club was in the Championship three years ago,” he said. “We are in Europe now which means a lot for us. It means we’ve done great work over the last two years and for the fans I think it’s going to be an amazing game.
“They’re not used to seeing Wolves in Europe for a long time so I think it’s going to be a great game for us and I hope the atmosphere is going to be like it is usually at Molineux.”