Wolves commence their Premier League season at Leicester on Sunday after a pre-season like the club has never experienced before. Two games in China that saw them beat Newcastle, and then Man City on penalties, to win the Asian Cup. Then three Europa League qualifiers where they have scored 10 and conceded 1. All rounded off with a trip of over 6,000 miles to Armenia and back. How good a preparation that is for a Premier League opener we will find out about 16:00 on Sunday but its certainly been different.
The Europa League experience has certainly captured the imagination of Wolves supporters. I wonder how many clubs in Europe could attract a 30,000 full house against Northern Ireland opposition. The next Molineux game on Thursday against Pyunik was also selling well but whether another sell out will be achieved with Wolves already 4 goals to the good from the first leg we will have to wait and see. What has further raised the interest in the return to European competition is the prospect of meeting Torino in a two leg knock out for a place in the group stages. The Italians won their first leg 5-0 on Thursday so the stage is set for what will feel like a proper European tie.
The close season has seen Costa, Cavaleiro and Hause as the main departures from Wolves and defender Vallejo from Real Madrid on loan, and striker Cutrone from Milan being the main additions. I’m not sure anyone knows what to think of the addition of Portuguese players Neto and Jordao for a combined fee in excess of £20m. We will have to wait and see if that’s a good investment for players with little playing time behind them. All in all maybe some disappointment that more wasn’t done to add depth to the squad, but if the two Portuguese lads prove to be good signings then that criticism will be unjustified. Those that do go to Molineux on Thursday will be hoping to get to see the new men on the field, and a game that starts with a four goal advantage is surely a good time to give them a chance as well as to rest some of the regular players.
But for now the attention is all on the game at Leicester against a team that like Wolves will be looking for a top half finish and if all goes well maybe offering a threat to the top six. The Foxes have secured the permanent signing of Tielemans from Monaco for £40m and he looked a really good player on loan last season. They have also bought in forward Perez from Newcastle and central midfield player Praet from Sampdoria. They have however lost Harry Maguire to a massive transfer to Man Utd and surprisingly haven’t bought anyone in to replace him.
The Wolves team to start on Sunday will largely pick itself with Patricio in goal. Bennett, Coady and Boly in defence. Dendoncker, Neves and Moutinho in midfield, and Jimenez and Jota in attack. But there is a question mark over the wing back positions. Traore has started the pre-season games in the absence of Doherty who picked up an injury early after the return to training in July. Traore bizarrely was not able to travel to Armenia after leaving his passport at home. Whether that will be an incident that will cost him a starting position on Sunday we will have to see. Doherty did return to the starting 11 in Armenia, and scored, but did get a knock and was substituted just after the hour. Whether he will be deemed ready to start at Leicester is unclear. By the end of the game at Pyunik it was Jonny on the right and Vinagre on the left and that may well be the pairing that start on Sunday.
There’s every chance there won’t be much to choose between Wolves and Leicester over the season so there will be a psychological value as well as three points at stake at the King Power stadium. A Wolves success and that unusual pre-season may be considered to have been the ideal preparation.