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How Wolverhampton Wanderers could line up in 2018-19

Ahead of their return to the Premier League after a six-year absence, Sports Mole looks at how newly-promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers could line up in the 2018-19 season.

Rarely has there been such a buzz about a newly-promoted side as there is surrounding Wolverhampton Wanderers ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.

Nuno Espirito Santo's first season in charge saw him cruise to the Championship title in a fashion which saw many herald his side as the best ever seen in the second tier, and a summer of spending has only increased optimism in the Midlands.

Most pre-season expectations have Wolves challenging for a top-half finish rather than simply staying up and establishing themselves in the Premier League, but with that expectation comes a different type of pressure to perform.

Adapting back to the Premier League after a six-year absence which has seen them sink down as low as League One may not be straightforward regardless of the talent at their disposal, and there will be plenty of intrigue surrounding their opening match against Everton.

Here, Sports Mole looks at how Wolves could line up in 2018-19.

How Wolves could line up for the 2018-19 season© Reuters
Transfers in: Diogo Jota (£13m, Atletico Madrid), Benik Afobe (£10m, Bournemouth), Willy Boly (£10m, Porto), Raul Jimenez (loan, Benfica), Rui Patricio (free, Sporting Lisbon), Joao Moutinho (£5m, Monaco), Jonny Castro (loan, Atletico Madrid), Adama Traore (£18m, Middlesbrough), Leander Dendoncker (loan, Anderlecht)

Transfers out: Jon Flatt (free, Scunthorpe United), Aaron Collins (loan, Colchester United), Benik Afobe (loan, Stoke City), Harry Burgoyne (loan, Plymouth Argyle), Ben Marshall (undisclosed, Norwich City), Hakeem Odoffin (free, Northampton Town), Roderick Miranda (loan, Olympiacos), Barry Douglas (undisclosed, Leeds United)

For all of their spending this summer, perhaps the best piece of business Wolves have conducted is signing Portugal international goalkeeper Rui Patricio on a free transfer after he cancelled his contract at Sporting Lisbon. John Ruddy was the man between the sticks last season, but he will play second fiddle this term.

The defensive foundation of Conor Coady and Willy Boly looks likely to stay in place, but Nuno could look to play deadline-day loan signing Leander Dendoncker alongside them in the back three despite the Belgian considering himself a midfielder first and foremost. Ryan Bennett and captain Danny Batth provide additional options at the heart of the defence too.

Many Wolves fans were puzzled by the decision to sell Barry Douglas to Leeds United after a season which saw him score five goals and set up a further 14 in the Championship, but Jonny Castro's loan move from Atletico Madrid should provide Wolves with a worthy replacement at left wing-back. Matt Doherty will continue on the opposite side, having missed only one game en route to the title last term.

The Portuguese midfield pairing of Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves is surely the best a newly-promoted side has ever been able to field in the Premier League. In Moutinho Wolves have brought in a European Championship winner with 113 caps for his country, and his experience should further enhance the prodigious talents of 21-year-old Neves, who unsurprisingly shone as a Champions League-level player in the Championship last term.

That pairing will look to tee up chances for a front three which has been bolstered by the arrival of club-record signing Adama Traore, who offers pace by the bucketload but still must answer questions regarding his final product if he is to fulfil the potential he showed when coming through the ranks at Barcelona.

Helder Costa is expected to operate on the opposite flank, while last season's top scorer Diogo Jota will hope to be as effective in the Premier League after making his loan move from Atletico Madrid permanent. Raul Jimenez adds depth to Wolves' attacking options, while Ivan Cavaleiro and Leo Bonatini - who has also turned a loan spell into a permanent spell - can also have an impact in the final third.

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Adama Traore in action for Middlesbrough during the Championship playoff semi-final on May 15, 2018
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