Ruben Vinagre could be set for a Europa League return for Wolves in Barcelona on Thursday night – as Nuno Espirito Santo praised his powers of recovery.
The 20-year-old left wing back made his comeback from a hamstring injury in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Norwich when he replaced Jonny Castro Otto in the 80th minute.
It was Vinagre’s first appearance for nearly six weeks after last playing in the FA Cup defeat away to Manchester United.
But with concerns over Jonny after he went down clutching his thigh in the latter stages of the Canaries game, Nuno could now pitch Vinagre in from the start on Thursday night when Wolves complete their round of 32 tie away to Espanyol.
“Ruben’s been with us for a couple of days. Jonny has been struggling and we decided Ruben was ready,” said the head coach.
“We need all the options because we have a small squad. All the players are so important to us so it’s very good to have him back. It’s massive for us.”
As for Jonny, Nuno said: “Well, let’s see. It was a big kick (he suffered).”
Nuno is delighted at the way Vinagre has thrown himself into his recovery and believes the Portuguese youngster has been rewarded with a sooner-than-expected return.
“It has to do with him – the way he treats himself, the way he works,” said the boss.
“Even when he’s injured he works – he doesn’t stop, so everything is faster in your recovery.
“You don’t have to play football (before being available for the first team) – you just go inside of the team.”
If selected, Vinagre could be joined by other changes as Nuno ponders whether to rest key players with Wolves holding a 4-0 advantage from the first leg, just three days before they play Tottenham away on Sunday.
Traore and Neto will no doubt relish the chance of more action after limited game time in the last two matches and could again replace Jota and Jimenez, but this time from the start.
Max Kilman has played four times in the Europa League already this season and could be given another runout if Nuno decides to rest a central defender or play one elsewhere.
That could possibly free up Romain Saiss for a return to midfield, allowing the luxury of resting in-form Ruben Neves or Joao Moutinho.
But with Nuno generally selecting his strongest teams in everything but the Carabao Cup this season, wholesale changes aren’t expected.