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UEL preview: One final hurdle for Wolves to reach group stage

Torino v Wolverhampton Wanderers: UEFA Europa League Play-Off

Raul Jimenez (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC) celebrates after scoring during the first leg of the playoff of UEFA Europa League between Torino FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Olympic Grande Torino Stadium on August 22, 2019 in Turin, Italy Final result: 2-3. (Photo by Massimiliano Ferraro/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ stated goal of reaching the Europa League group stage is 90 minutes (or, maybe 120) from becoming reality ahead of Thursday’s qualification second leg against Torino.

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After securing a 3-2 victory in Italy last week, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side will advance to the group stage with a draw at Molineux Stadium, a 1-0 defeat or a 2-1 defeat, or most obviously, a victory. A reversed 3-2 result would send the sides to extra time.

Raul Jimenez scored the winning goal, his fifth in five UEL appearances thus far, in the 72nd minute last Thursday. Torino defender Bremer opened the scoring by putting the ball into his own net and Diogo Jota made it 2-0 to the visitors just before the hour mark, but Torino hit back through Lorenzo De Silvestri in the 61st, followed by Jimenez’s goal 11 minutes later. Torino’s lifeline came courtesy of Andrea Belotti, from the penalty spot, in the 89th.

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It’s Belotti’s goal, also his fifth in UEL action this season, that gives Walter Mazzarri’s side a real shot at overturning the deficit at just one goal.

Having already played eight games this season — compared to most Premier League sides, who have only played three or four — it’s been a busy start to the 2019-20 campaign for Wolves, but Espirito Santo says his side is embracing not only the challenge of the busy schedule but also the dream of what could come of their journey in Europe.

“We are really embracing all the games, not only the competitions, but all the games we have in front of us,” he said this week. “It’s been good, I think for all the club it’s a new experience, but I think we’ve prepared well and the way we’ve dealt with the traveling has been fantastic, so I’m very pleased for the club and for the players. We just embrace the games and then we want to compete.”

Thursday’s notable Europa League schedule

Wolverhampton Wanderers v. Torino (3-2)
AIK v. Celtic (0-2)
Rangers v. Legia Warsaw (0-0)
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Strasbourg (0-1)
Zorya v. Espanyol (1-3)
Apollon Limassol v. PSV Eindhoven (0-3)
Hapoel Be’er Sheva v. Feyenoord (0-3)

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