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Wolves could finish fifth and win the Europa League – Eves

Mel Eves believes Wolves could finish fifth and win the Europa League as he hailed the mental strength of Nuno Espirito Santo and his players.

Wolves’ 2-1 win at Bournemouth on Saturday was their third straight victory and extended their unbeaten run to 12 in the Premier League and Europa League.

Critics said Nuno’s side would struggle with the amount of games and the weekend fixture was their 25th match of the season.

They lie fifth having amassed 19 points from 13 games, three more points than at the same stage last season when they didn’t have Europe to contend with as well.

Wolves’ eight-match unbeaten run in the Premier League is their longest in the top flight since February 1974.

In Europe, they need just two points from their final two Group K games to qualify for the knockout stages, starting with a trip to leaders Braga on Thursday.

League Cup winner Eves believes they can maintain their current position, and even win their first European silverware.

Absolutely it’s possible, whether they will or not, we’ll wait and see,” said the 62-year-old former striker on BBC Radio WM.

It’s certainly possible and it’s certainly possible that they could finish as high as fifth in the league, because they have the players.

It’s all to do with attitude and belief, and Nuno has been inspirational and the guiding light in all of this.

I think it’s all down to it (mental approach), I really do. I think Nuno has been a perfect example of never giving any excuse – the emphasis is on ‘bring it on, the more games the better, the players love playing, we just go again’.

I think it’s been a great attitude and that’s transmitted to the players, which is the main thing.

I think the big thing is belief, and the first 45 minutes on Saturday were arguably as good as we’ve seen from a Nuno team.

Nuno’s record at Wolves is 67 wins and 26 defeats from 123 games, giving a win ratio of 54 per cent.

It’s a phenomenal record; I’ve been so impressed with the guy,” added Eves. “You could tell from the word go that he’s got a way of playing, he gets the players in the right mindset, he works with them tirelessly on their shape, what they’ve got to do in possession as well as more importantly out of possession, and they all work for each other.”

Midfielder Joao Moutinho scored a wonderful goal to open the scoring at the Vitality Stadium to celebrate his new three-year contract extension.

Eves says the Portuguese magician is one hell of a clever operator on and off the pitch.

They’re all on the same wavelength. They understand each other’s games and I’ve been so impressed with Moutinho,” he said.

He’s just a fabulous footballer but also a fabulous human being who I’ve had the privilege to meet.

He’s a great character, he’s switched on and he’s very bright. We saw that with the first goal against Villa – when he found Ruben Neves as free as a bird just outside the box.

On Saturday, he saw Traore, thinking ‘I’m just going to play this inside the full back’, Jimenez knows what’s happening as well because he’s on the same wavelength so he makes the run at the right time, and it was just the perfect goal.”

Eves believes Nuno’s importance to Wolves can be shown in the transformation of Adama Traore.

The former Middlesbrough flier has harnessed his electric speed and has become a key player in three positions – right wing back, right winger and striker, with his cross for Raul Jimenez’s goal his ninth assist this season.

We can all make the example of Traore,” said Eves. “He was probably only concerned about what he did when he was in possession, but he’s so much better out of possession as well as when he’s got the ball, and his end product is better.”

Wolves have somehow maintained their unbeaten tag despite the loss of Willy Boly to injury, which is again huge credit to Nuno and the squad to absorb the absence of such a hugely important player.

Yes, they’re missing Willy Boly, but you wouldn’t believe that too much with the results they’ve got with everybody that comes in,” said Eves.

You’ve got literally three midfield players playing in the back three, with Leander Dendoncker, Conor Coady – who has been a revelation – and Romain Saiss, who never lets you down.

I know he’s suspended for the next game, so it will be interesting to see who he goes with, Max Kilman or push Ryan Bennett back in again.”