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Nuno hails ‘massive’ achievement as Wolves reach Europa League’s last 16

Nuno Espirito Santo hailed a ‘massive’ achievement for Wolves after reaching the last 16 of the Europa League and praised the way his players have gelled.

Wolves went down 3-2 on the night to Espanyol in Barcelona after goals from Adama Traore and Matt Doherty were eclipsed by Jonathan Calleri’s hat-trick, but Nuno’s side won 6-3 on aggregate to take their place in Friday’s draw.

“It’s massive for the club, massive for the city and we are happy, but we want to keep going,” said the head coach.
“We want to keep going with the hard work, and this gel between players is amazing, but we need to keep on going.

“Tomorrow we will see the draw and now we start thinking about the next game. All we are focused on now is the Premier League.”

Reflecting on reaching the furthest Wolves have been in Europe since reaching the final in 1972, Nuno admitted he was happy with the achievement.

“It is exciting, from the building of the team, the process we have been through, so we’re delighted,” he added.

“There’s been some very tough teams. It started in the qualifiers, then the play-off was tough, the group stage was tough, and we’ve had to manage the competitions, which at the same time is tough with a small squad.

“But I’m very proud with the way the players have been working and dedicating themselves, and I think it has been massive.”

Nuno admitted the second leg was a tough encounter for his much-altered side, which showed five changes from the team that beat Norwich 3-0 on Sunday.

“It was a tough game. Espanyol pressed very high and controlled many areas, and even though we were organised, we should have done better with the ball,” he said.

“When we analyse the game, we have to realise the players and we have to be cautious and prudent about it.

“I think we should have done better, but the hard work and organisation were there, and the fans are happy because we made something that is massive for us.

“It’s a lot of hard work – last season, qualifiers, play-offs, group stages, all these things – so we are proud of what we’ve been doing.”

Daniel Podence made his first start since his £16.9m move from Olympiakos and set up the first goal for Traore.

Nuno was pleased with the winger’s performance, saying: “It’s good. He came in the transfer window, but he’s adapting, he’s getting to know his team-mates better and he’s learning the shape.

“He’s a versatile player – he can play wide, he can play inside; but he has talent and I think he did well, and he can improve.”

Nuno is focused on the squad’s recovery and is already looking ahead to Sunday’s first trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to face compatriot Jose Mourinho.

“I’m just focused on what we have to do, and now, what we have to do is recover,” he said.

“They are already working on this process in the dressing room, because in 72 hours we’re playing again.

“Tomorrow we’re going to train and then we are going to travel to play Tottenham. This is the reality – day by day, game by game. We just focus on what we have to do, prepare well and compete.

“You can only evaluate and dedicate some time when it’s finished. We are still on the journey, so when you’re in the journey, you just have to focus on your daily tasks and keep on going.”