Nuno has issues to solve as Wolves bid to bounce back

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo has ‘huge admiration’ for a couple of people in the Tottenham ranks going into this clash.

Nuno Espirito Santo (AMA)
Nuno Espirito Santo (AMA)

Nuno and Jose Mourinho’s connection has been well-established by this point – the Wolves chief having played under the Spurs gaffer.

They won the Champions League together at Porto in 2004 and have kept in contact ever since.

And also worth bearing in mind is that this will be Matt Doherty’s first time returning to Molineux, where he spent 10 years, since moving to North London in the summer.

With Wolves looking to get back on track after a vastly disappointing defeat at Burnley, Nuno said on Mourinho: “It will be a pleasure to receive him at Molineux again.

“I have huge admiration for him, as you can imagine, on a personal level. And as a manager, he’s fantastic.

“So, I’m not surprised at all by the good things that he’s doing at Tottenham. It’s amazing.”

Doherty, meanwhile, may not play in this game as Serge Aurier has been Tottenham’s first-choice right-back in recent weeks, but his presence is very much still noteworthy.

A player who made more than 300 appearances in gold and black, rising from League One to the higher reaches of the Premier League and Europa League, you could very much argue Wolves are still reeling from his departure.

Nelson Semedo, signed for an initial £27million from Barcelona, is yet to fully convince fans.

When asked to assess Doherty’s time at Wolves and whether his role has changed since going to Spurs, Nuno said: “I will assess Matt from the time he was with us. Further, I will not say.

“When we arrived, Matt was playing on the left wing.

“One of the first conversations we had, I asked him why he was playing on the left side.

“He told me he felt more comfortable as he could drive inside and shoot on goal.

“But I said ‘look Matt, you are a defender, so let’s work on your defensive situations’.

“When he played on the right side, he was more comfortable facing one-on-one defensive situations.

“This is what we wanted, and it was the first step.

“He agreed, committed to it, and he had a fantastic level – goals, assists, the way he was up and down.

“I have a huge admiration for Matt. It was a pleasure to work him, so I’ll be delighted to meet him again and give him a big, big hug.

“I miss his hugs. He was the player that hugged me more.”

While Doherty is not a guaranteed starter for the visitors, Wolves’ XI is almost impossible to predict.

Leander Dendoncker missed the 2-1 loss at Turf Moor after picking up a knock in the win over Chelsea.

Willy Boly, meanwhile, made the Burnley squad but did not play as he was not at 100 per cent.

Fernando Marcal is expected to come back in after being an unused substitute against the Clarets.

Fabio Silva, having got off the mark, looks likely to be in from the off while Vitinha could be handed his first top-flight start after Ruben Neves’ struggled in Lancashire.

On the state of his squad, Nuno – in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday – said: “We are not in a good moment. We have issues. We have issues from the game of Chelsea. Even in the game of Burnley, on the bench there were players we were not able to put on the pitch.

“We have issues and among them is Leander. He’s improving but he’s not with the group yet.”

Asked if Boly’s condition has improved at all, Nuno said: “I would like not to address too much on that situation.

“Let’s keep it that way. I hope Boly and Leander can join the group soon.”

Both teams, ultimately, enter the match looking to respond to setbacks, with Tottenham losing 2-0 to Leicester last time out in the league.

“We expect a tough game against a talented squad, so let’s enjoy. Let’s focus on ourselves and prepare,” added Nuno.

“We cannot forget Christmas but, after that, everybody has to switch on for a tough match.”

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