MX23RW : Friday, September 18 17:10:32| >> :120:6257:6257:
Aug 1, 2019 at 8pm UK
Attendance: 3,383
WolvesWolverhampton Wanderers
Bennett (13' og.)
FT(HT: 1-3)
Jimenez (15', 45'), Bennett (38'), Forsythe (77' og.)

Preview: Crusaders vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Thursday's Europa League qualifier between Crusaders and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Wolverhampton Wanderers head into the second leg of their Europa League second qualifying round tie with Crusaders holding a 2-0 advantage from the opening fixture at Molineux.

Whomever prevails on aggregate on Thursday will take on either FK Jablonec or FC Pyunik in the next round.


Given the contrasting statures of the two clubs, manager Stephen Baxter claimed before last week's first leg that a 3-0 defeat for his side would represent a moral victory for the club.

However, there would have been considerable disappointment within the Crusaders squad in the Molineux changing rooms having conceded a second goal - in calamitous fashion - in the third and final minute of added-on time.

Even if they were facing just a one-goal deficit, Crusaders would have remained major underdogs to progress into the third qualifying round, but Ruben Vinagre's tap-in has left the club with a steeper task.

Nevertheless, roared on by a sold-out crowd and with the game taking place on an artificial surface, Baxter and his players will not have given up hope of registering what would undoubtedly be the biggest result in their history.

Baxter will also be conscious of the fact that they are further down the line in terms of fitness than their more illustrious opponents, something which should give them an extra edge at Seaview.

Their stamina may be put to the test if Wolves can use the ball like they did in the West Midlands, but an early goal has the potential to change the course of the tie.

Regardless of what occurs on Thursday, however, Crusaders have enjoyed one of their best European campaigns in their history, while Baxter described last week's performance as arguably their best during his time at the club.

Comments like that suggest that this group may have over-performed on the trip to England, but there were also signs that they will have no fear in playing host to one of European football's most progressive sides.

Recent form: WWL

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo pictured on July 25, 2019© Reuters

Despite what was a relatively dominant win, Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo stressed after last week's game that his side needed to make improvements during the reverse fixture in Northern Ireland.

There were times when Wolves lacked ideas - especially in the second half against an increasingly defensive side - as they looked to build an unassailable lead ahead of travelling to Belfast.

While it would be considered to be one of the great European shocks if Crusaders overturn the current deficit, Wolves still have work to do, although that is something which Nuno will not mind at this stage of the season.

Wolves are using this competition to build up their sharpness ahead of the new campaign, and there were signs last Thursday that they have some way to go before hitting top form.

Nevertheless, holding a two-goal lead - and without conceding an away goal - represented the ideal result for Nuno and his side, who can head into the second leg with the intention of finding the one goal which should end this tie as a contest.

With players carrying injuries and returning to pre-season training at different times, Nuno will hope that they can make the breakthrough during the early stages to effectively make the game a training exercise.

There may also be an opportunity to hand minutes to members of the club's academy setup, with Nuno having expressed a desire to call upon those players throughout this season.

That said, Wolves will place full focus on trying to earn a spot in the next round with minimal fuss as they target a prolonged run in this competition.

Recent form: W

Team News

Ruben Neves celebrates scoring a free kick for Wolverhampton Wanderers on August 11, 2018© Reuters

Ruben Neves picked up a side injury during last week's fixture, although the Portuguese is expected to be passed fit for this contest.

Matt Doherty remains out with a knee problem, but Nuno may take the opportunity to hand more minutes to Vinagre, with Adama Traore potentially dropping out of the team.

Romain Saiss and Raul Jimenez are both pushing for starting roles having rejoined the squad at the start of last week, something which could lead to Morgan Gibbs-White only being named among the replacements.

Jesus Vallejo and Patrick Cutrone - additions from Real Madrid and AC Milan respectively - cannot feature, having signed for Wolves midway through the tie.

Crusaders will hope to have Colin Coates back in contention, with the captain having missed the first leg through injury.

Crusaders possible starting lineup:
O'Neill; Forsythe, Burns, Coates, Hegarty; Caddell, Hale, Thompson, Lowry; Heatley, Clarke

Wolverhampton Wanderers possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Otto, Dendoncker, Moutinho, Neves, Vinagre; Jota, Jimenez

Head To Head

Last week's clash marked the first ever encounter between the two clubs.

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We say: Crusaders 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Crusaders will have to show more ambition on Thursday night, although that will only free up space for Wolves to take advantage at the other end. We expect the Premier League side to ease through, but do not be surprised to see the home team get on the scoresheet.


Who will win Thursday's pre-season friendly between Crusaders and Wolverhampton Wanderers?

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Wolverhampton Wanderers
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Morgan Gibbs-White in action for Wolves on November 7, 2018
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