Wolves’ Europa League group stage verdict: Premier League side should fly through against Braga and Slovan Bratislava… but beware of a potential banana skin away at Besiktas
- Wolves drew Besiktas, Braga and Slovan Bratislava in Europa League Group K
- The Premier League side should fancy their chances of topping the standings
- Besiktas represents a potential banana skin as they travel all the way to Turkey
- Slovan Bratislava’s danger man is prolific Andraz Sporar – he is scoring for fun
Wolves were handed a favourable group-stage draw in their first European foray for 38 years, facing Besiktas, Braga and Slovan Bratislava.
The Premier League side overcame Crusaders, Pyunik and Torino to book their place in the Europa League proper, and have now managed to dodge any really nasty ties.
While it won’t be easy, Nuno Espirito Santo and his players will fancy their chances of making it to the knockout stages. Here, Sportsmail assesses their group…
Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates after watching his Wolve side get past Torino on Thursday
Former Arsenal and Chelsea defender Ashley Cole was part of the draw-making team
Group K opponents
Star man: Burak Yilmaz
If anyone knows their way around the Turkish league, it’s Yilmaz. He’s played for all four top clubs, and in his last spell at Trabzonspor scored 28 goals in 32 matches. He netted 11 in 15 last season, and once he’s returned from a foot injury in a few weeks, he’ll almost certainly be back firing again.
After failing to get out of a group involving Sarpsborg, Malmo and Genk last season, the Turkish side will be desperate to get further this year. Their best ever Europa League finish was in 2016-17 when they were knocked out on penalties by Lyon in the quarter-finals.
Always a tough place to go, with a vociferous fanbase and a long travel time. This will be the banana skin for Wolves.
3312 miles round trip
Besiktas’ fans make it a very hard place to go and Wolves should be wary of a potential slip-up
Star man: Ricardo Horta
Signed from Malaga in 2017, Horta has impressed in the Portuguese top flight and at the age of 24 is only likely to get better.
They reached the final in 2011, losing 1-0 to fellow Portuguese side Porto in Dublin. Most recently, they won their group in 2015-16 before beating FC Sion in the last 32. They went on to beat Fenerbahce in the last 16, but then lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in the quarter-finals.
Made the group stages by beating Brondby and Spartak Moscow and will fancy their chances if they can find some form. Wolves should have too much, but you just never know in a competition like this. The away tie will also see many of Wolves’ Portuguese contingent heading back to their home country.
1634 miles round trip
Ricardo Horta is one of Braga’s best players and will be hoping to impress in the Europa League
Star man: Andraz Sporar
He enjoyed a prolific season last time out, netting 29 goals and therefore tying the record for most goals scored in a Slovakian top-flight season. He has also played 13 times for the Slovenia national team and already has three goals in two league games so far this season.
Due to their standing in Slovakian football, they are regulars in the Europa League – but it is already a good season. They were knocked out of Champions League qualifying in the first round, but then got through three rounds of Europa League qualifying to make the group stages for the first time since 2014-15. Their best ever Europa League finish is a group-stage exit.
In theory, this should be six points for Wolves if they play to the top of their game. Although a bit of a long trip out to Slovakia, they are far the better side, despite their lack of experience in comparison.
1796 miles round trip
Wolves will travel 6742 miles during the group stage
Andraz Sporar is prolific, and netted a record 29 goals in the Slovakian top flight last season
Where will Wolves finish in the group?
Verdict: Wolves should top the group, given their squad and the opponents they will face. There are a few potential slip-ups, particularly with the trip to Turkey, but Nuno’s side are likely to be strong enough to romp through.