Wolverhampton Wanderers are gearing up for their final Europa League group stage match on Thursday, and given that Besiktas are already out, they should be looking to rest some key players for a busy period.
There are a number of key reasons why this Thursday – albeit still a great spectacle at Molineux – needs not to be considered as a key game.
Firstly, reports coming from Turkey suggest that a number of important players are going to be rested by Besiktas. Secondly, Wolves’ squad is notably thin in a number of important positions. And, finally, topping the group in the Europa League isn’t *that* important; no way near the same kind of important as topping a Champions League group.
Ok, so let’s dissect these three points a bit more.
According to Bein Sports Turkey, the Besiktas coach Abdullah Avciis will be resting his important players for this match considering that it means pretty much nothing to them. That, claimed by the source, could include Gokhan Gonul, Caner Erkin, Burak Yilmaz, Adam Ljajic, Atiba Hutchinson and Mohamed Elneny when they come to the West Midlands.
The Black Eagles have hit some great form in the league, pushing themselves back into second in the table in a wayward Super Lig this season. So while they also have a busy period coming up, why would they risk playing some of their big players to try and get three more points for the sake of it?
Secondly, Wolves’ squad is notably thin – Nuno Espirito Santo has discussed this recently by admitting that his team is in need of bolstering (Daily Mail).
Furthermore, Conor Coady, Joao Moutinho, Leander Dendoncker, Raul Jimenez and Rui Patricio have all played in every single game of the Premier League and Europa League group stage campaigns. There are also players such as Matt Doherty, Adama Traore, Jonny and Ruben Neves who have missed a maximum of two games (all stats per WhoScored). While that is practically the whole side, Nuno needs to seriously consider which players need a rest the most and give it to them – especially when you consider that Spurs, Man City and Liverpool are three out of their next four Premier League games.
Should Wolves rest players for Thursday's game?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, winning your group in the Europa League isn’t that crucial. Let’s not forget that Braga are probably likely to win in Bratislava anyway leave Wolves powerless to top the group.
The way the tournament is structured means that there isn’t too much of a difference between finishing top and bottom. The top 12 teams from their respective groups go to the first seed, and then the top four best placed of the Champions League third places go as the first seed, with the rest going into the second. Given that, for whatever reason, the Europa League seems to be much more erratic with who goes through – with sides such as Gent, Rangers and Copenhagen currently topping their group – there doesn’t really seem to be too much difference in what kind of team they could get. Likewise, in the Champions League, who finishes third with how many points is hugely dependent on the group they were drawn.
Essentially, the next set of Premier League games are far more important than risking fatigue to probably not even top their group. That’s why plenty of youngsters should get a run out on Thursday.