Ruben Neves admits he is planning another special goal to mark a historic night for Wolves.
The 22-year-old midfielder has made a habit of scoring spectacular goals ever since his £15.8m move from Porto in July 2017 with all 10 of his strikes – not including his three penalties – coming from outside the area. Neves’s 35-yard unforgettable flick up and volley against Derby in April 2018 was voted Championship goal of the season, while he marked his Premier League debut with a goal against Everton. He also netted long-range efforts against Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool in the FA Cup, all last season at Molineux, where he also found the top corner with the recent equaliser against Manchester United this season, again at home.
Wolves host Sporting Braga in their first Europa League group stage game on Thursday. When the club reached the competition’s inaugural final in 1972 in its previous guise as the UEFA Cup, Wolves played every game home and away on a two-legged, knockout basis as there were no groups.
Asked if he is looking for another wonder goal, Neves said: “I think all the players think about that. We always try to do our best on the pitch – it doesn’t matter what the competition or the team is, our main objective is to help Wolves to grow and this is going to be another game for that. It’s another competition and we’re very proud to be playing in Europe, I think all the players will do their best for the team.”
Another Neves goal would go some way to giving Wolves the edge as they strive to make home advantage count to embark on the best start to Group K. They then travel to Turkey to face Besiktas, Slovakia to play Slovan Bratislava, who then come to Molineux, before Wolves go to Portugal for the return against Braga, followed by the visit of Besiktas.
Neves is determined to make the first game count in their favour so they start as they mean to go on and is looking for the passionate Molineux crowd to play their part on another special night under the lights.
“We have to take this advantage for us,” he said. “We have a great atmosphere in our stadium and we have to play with that as well. 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.”
Wolves have no shortage of ‘intel’ on Braga as they are so well known to the club’s Portuguese players, backroom staff and head coach Nuno Espirito Santo. Braga finished fourth in Portugal’s Primeira Liga last season and Neves, who has faced them before for Porto, is expecting a tough test.
“They are one of the biggest teams in Portugal, they always qualify for Europe, so they’re a good team and we know them,” he added. “We have a lot of information (on them) and we’re working on that to try to get our first win in the group stages.”
Neves lost just one of his four games against Braga for Porto, winning two and drawing the other. The cities are separated by just 35 miles and Neves says their clashes were always competitive because of the closeness of the two teams.
“It was a good rivalry,” said the midfielder. “The cities are close to each other, they are two of the big teams in Portugal, so we know it’s going to be a difficult game.
“They’re a big club and I don’t think Porto have to come into 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.”