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Matt Maher: A fortnight that will decide how successful Wolves' year has been

By Matt Maher | Wolves | Published:

Tonight should have been an occasion to savour at Molineux.

Nuno Espirito Santo the head coach / manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers (AMA)

The stands should have been packed, for a match which should have taken place in March.

Nearly five months on from when they first met, Wolves and Olympiacos will finally complete their Europa League last-16 tie in the same fashion they began it, behind closed doors.

The necessary rescheduling of the competition’s final rounds has given this longest of seasons an epilogue which, depending on results, could last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks.

Progress tonight and Wolves will be just three victories away from one of the greatest triumphs in their history, as well as the prize of a place in next season’s Champions League.

It feels fair to claim how Nuno Espirito Santo’s men fare over the next fortnight will ultimately determine how this already record-breaking (in length) campaign will be judged.

A second consecutive seventh-placed finish in the Premier League would have been considered an impressive achievement last summer and in many respects it remains so, when considering the amount of fixtures Wolves have needed to negotiate.

Yet there is no escaping the fact the finish to their league season felt like a missed opportunity. Wolves put themselves in sight of a top-four finish with six matches to go but stumbled on the final straight.

The trouble with raising expectations and standards, as Nuno and his men have so dramatically done over the past three years, is that you have to keep meeting them. In the Premier League, this time around, Wolves came up a little short.

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Now they have a second chance, in what is almost akin to end-of-season play-offs but with a final prize even more precious.

For context, Wolves’ Europa League exploits have so far earned them around £7million in prize money and if Conor Coady lifts the trophy in Cologne on August 21 it will eventually top £20m. The prize money for simply reaching the group stages of the Champions League is a little under £15m.

Those figures highlight that while the Europa League has been a thrilling adventure for Wolves, qualifying for the Champions League has the potential to move the club on to an entirely different level. It would also surely end any speculation over the immediate futures of Raul Jimenez, Adama Traore and even Nuno, who now has less than a year remaining on his contract. No question, it is a big couple of weeks ahead.

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher

Chief sports writer for the Express & Star.

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