Wolverhampton Wanderers take their first steps into European football in 39 years as they face Crusaders F.C. in the second round of qualifiers in the Europa League on Thursday evening.
Nuno Espirito Santo's men will be in high spirits after beating current Premier League champions Manchester City in the final of the Premier League Asia Trophy on Saturday, as their hard-fought 0-0 draw in regular time allowed them to put the Citizens to the sword in a thrilling penalty shootout.
Crusaders however will go into the game at Molineux with their heads held high after beating Faroese side B36 Torshavn 5-2 on aggregate in their previous Europa League qualifier.
With high-stakes on the line for both teams in this European qualifier it should be a tensely fought bout from the outset, with that being said check out 90min's preview of the upcoming game.
Where To Watch
|When Is Kick Off?||Thursday 25th of July|
|What Time Is Kick Off?||19:45 (BST)|
|Where Is it Played?||Molineux Stadium|
|TV Channel/Live Stream||Premier Sports|
Wolves look set to play their strongest side against their Northern Irish opponents on Thursday, wishing to get the tie finished before the team even reach Belfast, however they look set to be without star striker Raul Jimenez who is still having time off after Mexico's title winning Gold Cup run earlier in the month, but he still could make an appearance.
Roman Saiss also looks set to miss the opener due to his commitments in the African Cup of Nations, and Irish wing-back Matt Doherty looks set to miss the game due to a knee injury sustained in early July.
Crusaders could be handed a boost ahead of this game as they look to be reunited with their captain Colin Coates, who missed the last two rounds against their Faroese opponents, as did Matthew Snoddy and Rodney Brown who missed the matches due to stomach muscle injuries.
Most Crusaders players wouldn't want to wish this match-up for the world with their chances to impress their fans on a global stage at the home of one of the biggest teams in all of English football, so expect a strong side to be on display.
|Wolves||Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Adama, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Castro; Gibbs-White, Jota.|
|Crusaders||O'Neill; Burns, Hegarty, Coates, Lowry; Caddell, Forsythe, Ruddy, Owens; Heatley, Clarke.|
Head to Head Record
Unsurprisingly these two teams have never faced each other before, with the last match Crusaders ever played against English opposition being against Fulham in 2011, which was also in a Europa League qualifying match and Crusaders current manager Stephen Baxter was their manager for that match-up as well.
Fulham ended up winning the game 7-1 on aggregate, winning the home leg 4-0; a scoreline Wolves will be hoping to match.
As mentioned earlier in this article, Wolves go into this game in high spirits after a wildly successful pre-season campaign in Asia in which they won the Premier League Asian Trophy, beating Premier League opponents Newcastle and Manchester City. They also go into this match at home having only lost one match at Molineux in all of 2019.
Crusaders, on the other hand, go into this having beaten B36 Torshavn rather convincingly in their prior Europa League qualifier, and having gone unbeaten in ten matches during the end of their season where they won the Irish Cup and the County Antrim Shield in a matter of months.
Here's a look at how both sides have gotten on in their last five fixtures.
|Wolves 0-0 (3-2 on pens) Manchester City (20/07)||B36 Torshavn 2-3 Crusaders (18/07)|
|Newcastle 0-4 Wolves (17/07)||Crusaders 2-0 B36 Torshavn (11/07)|
|Liverpool 2-0 Wolves (12/05)||Crusaders 0-0 Ballyclare Comrades (04/07)|
|Wolves 1-0 Fulham (04/05)||Crusaders 4-1 Ards (29/06)|
|Watford 1-2 Wolves (27/04)||Crusaders 1-0 Motherwell (26/06)|
This game is shaping up to be an incredibly important match for both sides, with Wolves getting their first taste of European football since they were knocked out of the first round of the 1980/81 UEFA Cup by PSV, and Crusaders hoping to make amends after the last time they faced English opposition in a qualifier for the Europa League.
However, it's hard to imagine Wolves faltering against their Irish opposition, especially as they are coming off the back of beating the current Premier League champions.
Prediction: Wolves 4-0 Crusaders