Nuno Espirito Santo was proud to deliver a night to remember for Wolves fans after a 3-3 draw in Braga secured a spot in the last 32 of the Europa League.

The Premier League side roared back from a goal down to lead 3-1 by the break in Portugal, with Raul Jimenez, Matt Doherty and Adama Traore on target – the latter two strikes coming 81 seconds apart.

But Braga maintained their grip on top spot in Group K courtesy of second-half goals from Paulinho and Fransergio.

The point ensured Wolves' qualification for the last 32 with a game to spare and Nuno was particularly delighted for the sizeable travelling contingent.

"I'm extremely proud – 6,000 fans here is amazing," he said, in quotes reported by Wolves' official website. "It requires a lot of effort from them, flights and travel, on a night like this, that's what makes us proud.

"The journey we started together, since the Championship. If we can achieve more, we will try. It's the same group of players that started, that are trying to grow, our fans are always with us supporting and that's what makes me happy."

Despite his evident satisfaction at extending Wolves' continental campaign into 2020, Nuno noted areas for improvement after a game the visitors really ought to have won.

"The first half was good. We started bad, we conceded a goal and that can happen, but the reaction was very good," he said.

"We pressed well, we stayed organised and achieved good combinations, so naturally we were finishing goals, the way the team reacted in play was good.

"Second half not so good, not so well organised, allowing passes to Braga that unbalances and conceded in situations that we must improve.

"The season has been long and it was another demanding match. We started very early in the season, however the balance so far has been good. The team is improving, the players are responding.

"We need to keep this momentum because in a couple of days we have a key game against Sheffield United and we want to develop and improve.

"We don't have limits, we always keep going and we're going to the next one."

Wolves were left stunned by Braga's second-half revival as both sides sealed progress to the last 32 of the Europa League following a 3-3 draw.

After storming back from a goal down to lead 3-1 at the interval, Wolves somehow let maximum points and top spot in Group K slip from their grasp in a thriller in the rain in Portugal.

The visitors, unchanged from the 2-1 Premier League win over Bournemouth, fell behind after six minutes when Andre Horta's deflected effort found the back of the net in sodden conditions.

But Raul Jimenez – involved in all three of his side's goals – swiftly levelled matters with his 15th of the season before a quick-fire double from Matt Doherty and Adama Traore put Nuno Espirito Santo's men in the ascendancy.

That was far from the end of the story, though, as Paulinho cut the gap and Fransergio grabbed a late equaliser to keep Braga top. Third-placed Slovan Bratislava's 2-1 defeat at Besiktas spelled the end of road for the Slovakians, with their Turkish opponents already out of the running.

Braga won the reverse fixture with Wolves at Molineux courtesy of Ricardo Horta's goal and it was his brother who put them ahead on Thursday, Andre Horta's low strike taking a telling touch off Ruben Neves to send the ball beyond Rui Patricio.

Wolves, sitting fifth in the English top flight, were quick to respond and Jimenez headed home after Jonny's looping cross had left Eduardo flapping at thin air.

Nuno's side came close to forging ahead midway through the first half, but Traore's teasing ball across the six-yard box was just beyond the reach of Diogo Jota.

Undeterred, Wolves continued to push forward and got their reward with two goals in 81 seconds – Doherty leaping to nod in Jimenez's lofted delivery before Traore coolly slotted in the third.

A smart stop from Eduardo spared Braga further punishment as he parried away Jota's header five minutes into the second half.

The hosts lost a tearful Wallace to injury just before the hour mark but were soon celebrating halving the deficit through Paulinho's close-range finish, after excellent work from Wenderson Galeno.

Despite Wolves still appearing to carry the greater threat, they were rocked by Fransergio's 79th-minute header from Nuno Sequeira's assist as the spoils were shared in an unlikely classic.

Nuno Espirito Santo says he will not be distracted over "not real" speculation he could be in line to replace Unai Emery at Arsenal.

Emery is under increasing pressure after a run of six games without a win in all competitions, with reports he is facing the sack.

Nuno, meanwhile, continues to burnish his reputation with Wolves fifth in the Premier League, three places above the Gunners, and on the brink of the Europa League knockout stages.

The Portuguese manager was unwilling to be drawn on the speculation at a news conference on Wednesday.

"[Rumours] are not a distraction," Nuno said.

"You know me. I don't talk about ifs, I don't talk about possibilities, I don't talk about things that are not real.

"I think you know me well enough and you know that I'm not going to answer about that. 

"I will never mention an issue that's not a reality. Mainly because the job has a manager in it. It would be disrespectful."

Asked if he was happy at Wolves, Nuno added: "I think we are doing okay. 

"It requires a lot of work and every day is a chance to improve and this is what we want to do all together."

Wolves and Arsenal are both in Europa League action on Thursday, with Nuno's side away to Braga while the Gunners host Eintracht Frankfurt.

Arsenal have set their sights on Nuno Espirito Santo.

Incumbent head coach Unai Emery is running out of time and the Gunners are reportedly plotting to replace him.

Succession planning could result in a raid on Premier League rivals Wolves.

 

TOP STORY – NUNO THE NUMERO UNO FOR ARSENAL

Impressed with his work in the Midlands, Arsenal chiefs have identified 45-year-old Nuno as their preferred replacement for the under-fire Emery.

The Daily Mail reports Raul Sanllehi, the club's head of football, has a "long-standing relationship" with Nuno's agent Jorge Mendes and claims the former Porto boss is now the leading contender for the job.

Nuno guided Wolves to promotion from the Championship two seasons ago and achieved a top-seven finish last term.

ROUND-UP

- LaLiga rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid are monitoring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's situation as the striker stalls on an Arsenal contract extension, says The Daily Star.

- Jorge Jesus has emerged as a candidate to replace Marco Silva at Everton. The former Sporting CP coach guided Flamengo to Copa Libertadores glory over the weekend and his name has been put forward at Goodison Park, reports The Telegraph.

- Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich have held fresh talks with Leroy Sane's agent but are unlikely to lodge a transfer bid for the Manchester City winger until the end of the season, according to Goal.

- On-loan Roma defender Chris Smalling's impressive adjustment to Serie A has inspired Juventus to make enquiries to Manchester United, reports Italian broadcaster Radio Radio.

- Zlatan Ibrahimovic's latest transfer hint might not be what it seems. ESPN suggests the Swedish free agent is considering investing in Hammarby, rather than playing for the Allsvenskan side. On Tuesday, Ibrahimovic tweeted an image of a Hammarby shirt sporting his name on the back, sparking rampant speculation.

The battle for Jadon Sancho's signature looks set to begin.

Four high-profile clubs in England and Spain are reportedly monitoring the teenager, one of Europe's brightest prospects.

Aggrieved with recent events at Borussia Dortmund, Sancho could now seek a new home for next season.

 

TOP STORY – CLUBS QUEUE UP FOR 'SCAPEGOAT' SANCHO

Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester United and Real Madrid are the "leading quartet" of suitors for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to The Athletic.

Former club Manchester City have also asked to be "kept informed" following a string of events that have upset the 19-year-old England winger, notably his first-half substitution in the 4-0 Klassiker loss to Bayern Munich earlier this month.

Sancho's representatives are said to have deemed that move "disgraceful", paving the way for his Dortmund departure at the end of the Bundesliga season.

 

ROUND-UP

Paul Pogba's prolonged absence for Manchester United is part of a concerted effort to force through a January transfer to LaLiga giants Madrid, claims Spanish journalist Paco Gonzalez. Pogba, not sighted since September, is recovering from an ankle injury.

- According to Calciomercato, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is weighing up a move to AC Milan. The 38-year-old is available on a free transfer after leaving MLS outfit LA Galaxy. Ibrahimovic has been linked to Bologna, Tottenham, Napoli and Perth Glory.

West Ham are considering replacing Manuel Pellegrini with Chris Wilder, reports The Mirror. The Hammers are languishing 16th in the Premier League after 13 games, while Wilder's Sheffield United are riding high in sixth. Chris HughtonDavid Moyes and Rafael Benitez are reportedly among the other candidates should West Ham lose patience with Pellegrini.

- Wolves defender Owen Otasowie is wanted by Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Bundesliga team Schalke, reports The Sun. 18-year-old centre-back has also been watched by Liverpool and Arsenal.

- The Mirror reports Aston Villa are leading the race to sign Rhian Brewster on loan in January. Brewster, 19, has been unable to break his way into Liverpool's Premier League plans this term. The report states Villa face competition from Crystal PalaceLeeds United and Swansea City.

Spain head coach Robert Moreno insists he did not call up Wolves winger Adama Traore "on a whim" for this month's Euro 2020 qualifying matches.

Traore was surprisingly named as a replacement for the injured Rodrigo Moreno only for a hamstring issue to force him to withdraw from the squad.

It had been suggested Traore was only called up so that he would make a competitive appearance for Spain and therefore no longer be eligible to represent Mali, the country of his parents.

However, Moreno - who worked with the player at Hospitalet and Barcelona, where he made his senior debut - says he has long considered calling up Traore due to his ability to unsettle deep-lying defences.

"I'm looking for players who can create an imbalance. Adama Traore has that and is very different from others," he told a news conference.

"He suffered a little problem on Sunday. I spoke with him and he told me he couldn't come.

"Adama is very well-known because he came out of La Florida, my local club. He was at Hospitalet, where I was, and we gave him his debut at Barcelona. Nobody knows him like I do.

"He wasn't called up on a whim. We've been following him for a long time and he has been on two preliminary squad lists."

Spain, who have already qualified for the Euro 2020 finals, face Malta and Romania in their final two games in Group F.

Moreno is eager to see a more clinical edge in attack from his players given they were held by Norway and Sweden in their most recent games.

"We lacked aim in the last two games against Norway and Sweden. We create chances, but you still have to create more," he said.

"This week, we've emphasised working against teams who close things down, as I think that's how the games against Malta and Romania will be."

Moreno also suggested he could give Roma goalkeeper Pau Lopez a chance to impress, as the battle for the number-one position continues between Kepa Arrizabalaga and David de Gea.

"I said I wanted to try everyone and I'm a man of my word. It could be that Pau Lopez plays one of the next two games," he said.

Ruben Neves is not concerned about Cristiano Ronaldo's state of mind for Portugal despite a difficult week at club level with Juventus.

Ronaldo, 34, was substituted in each of Juve's past two matches before the international break and is reported to have left the stadium early when hooked in Sunday's 1-0 win over AC Milan.

Paulo Dybala came on for the Portugal talisman against Milan and went on to score the winner, with Ronaldo visibly annoyed as he headed straight down the tunnel when replaced by the Argentina international.

Juve head coach Maurizio Sarri put Ronaldo's withdrawals down to a bruised knee, though the forward still received criticism for his reaction.

Wojciech Szczesny said Ronaldo's anger was understandable, but he appears to have mellowed since linking up with Portugal.

Speaking ahead of Thursday's Euro 2020 qualifier against Lithuania, Neves said: "Cristiano is fine, had a great training session, as always, and he has a great motivation for the match.

"He's fully prepared for the match. I guess he has no idea of what people are talking about.

"He had a fine training session, as I've already said, so I guess we can expect the Ronaldo we always see in the game tomorrow."

Wolves midfielder Neves has continued to impress this season after catching the eye in the Premier League last term, but it was put to him that he seems more reserved when wearing a Portugal jersey.

He is convinced that is a misconception, however, adamant he feels just as productive for the Selecao as he does for Wolves.

"No, no," Neves said. "We have lots of matches with Wolves. If we compare my number of matches and goals for Wolves and the same for Portugal, the difference won't be big.

"So, I'm focused on helping my national team all the times I'm called up and don't have anything more to say about this."

Adama Traore will have medical tests to determine the severity of an injury that has forced his withdrawal from the Spain squad, with Pablo Sarabia taking his place.

Traore – who had reportedly been close to declaring for Mali, the country of his parents – was called into Robert Moreno's squad for the first time on Saturday as a replacement for Valencia forward Rodrigo Moreno.

But the winger suffered an injury in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa the following day and will be unable to feature in the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Malta and Romania, with Spain aiming to clinch top spot in Group F.

It remains to be seen if the problem will keep him sidelined for Wolves after the international break, with Traore set for tests on Monday.

He told the website of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) : "Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the call-up of the national team because of an injury in the game we played this Sunday against Aston Villa.

"I am sorry I cannot be in this squad, but I will continue working to be in the best possible condition for the next lists, God willing.

"I want to give thanks for the confidence that the coach has placed in me. This Monday I will have medical tests at my club, Wolves, to know the extent of the injury."

Traore, 23, represented his birth nation Spain at various youth levels through to Under-21, but a career with the senior side for a long time had seemed unlikely.

Media speculation in recent weeks claimed he had chosen to represent Mali, as a photo of him holding the African nation's jersey circulated on social media last week.

Some criticised his call-up, suggesting Spain had only selected Traore in an attempt to stop him featuring for Mali, which would have prevented him from future appearances for La Roja.

Paris Saint-Germain winger Sarabia takes his place in the selection.

Excellent strikes from Ruben Neves and Raul Jimenez gave Wolves a deserved 2-1 win over midlands rivals Aston Villa at Molineux.

Villa were struck by an early injury to goalkeeper Jed Steer – himself a replacement for regular number one Tom Heaton – and spent much of the opening period on the back foot, with the otherwise impressive Jimenez passing up a pair of good chances.

Neves stepped up to beat Villa replacement Orjan Nyland four minutes before half-time, dispatching a trademark strike from outside the box after Joao Moutinho picked out his fellow Portugal international from a right-wing corner.

Jimenez slotted in Adama Traore's 84th-minute cross for the goal his endeavours deserved and, despite Trezeguet besting Romain Saiss' efforts on the goalline to pull one back in stoppage time, Nuno Espirito Santo's men held out for a win that puts them eighth in the table.

Raul Jimenez scored a 92nd-minute winner as Wolves beat Slovan Bratislava 1-0 in Thursday's Europa League clash to move to the brink of the knockout stage.

The Premier League side won 2-1 when the sides last met two weeks ago but looked as though they were going to be denied a third successive Group K victory by inspired Slovan goalkeeper Dominik Greif this time.

Ruben Neves had a penalty saved early in the second half, and Greif produced a number of other impressive stops to frustrate Wolves at Molineux.

But with 12 minutes added on due to a nasty head injury to Kenan Bajric, Jimenez headed in Adama Traore's floated cross to move his side to within one point of the last 32.

A new striker in January is a priority at Manchester United and reports suggest a familiar face could make a sensational return to England.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has previously said the club will be doing business after Christmas, with a striker still required following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez.

Marcus Rashford has scored three goals in his previous two matches, while Anthony Martial marked his return from injury with a goal against Norwich City last Sunday, but a surprising name could provide the answer to United's depth issues up top.

 

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED MAKE CONTACT WITH IBRAHIMOVIC

Manchester United have made contact with former striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, according to TuttoMercatoWeb.

Ibrahimovic scored 30 goals in MLS for LA Galaxy in 2019, but they were eliminated from the post-season after a 5-3 defeat to cross-town rivals LAFC in the Western Conference semi-finals last weekend.

Interest in the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain striker has increased since the end of LA Galaxy's season with the Swede still believing he can contribute at the highest level.

The 38-year-old is currently a free agent and scored 29 goals at Old Trafford in a brief spell with the club previously.

ROUND-UP

- One player who may create funds for Manchester United's January business is defender Chris Smalling, but Corriere dello Sport claim the Red Devils want double the €10 million price Roma are expecting to pay for him. 

- AS are reporting Edinson Cavani is weighing up his future at Paris Saint-Germain with Atletico Madrid and Inter Miami keeping tabs on the Uruguayan.

Stefano Sensi is currently on-loan at Inter Milan from Sassuolo, but Sport claim Sensi's agent is in Barcelona as speculation of a move to the Spanish champions grows.

- The Daily Mail claims Wolves will turn to Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes in January as they seek reinforcements to cover the injured Willy Boly.

- Chelsea are interested in signing Hertha Berlin winger Javairo Dilrosun when their transfer ban expires, according to Calciomercato.

- L'Equipe say Nantes are among several clubs showing interest in free agent forward Hatem Ben Arfa.

Arsenal desperately need a positive result against Wolves if they are to draw a line under a tumultuous week at Emirates Stadium, but Nuno Espirito Santo's men have a strong record against the top flight's 'big six'.

The Gunners have been reeling since they squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Crystal Palace in a game that saw Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka booed by his own supporters, and the visibly angry Switzerland international cupped his ear to the disgruntled crowd as he left the field.

The result left Arsenal winless in two league games and facing something of a crisis of leadership as they prepare to face Wolves, who arrive in north London unbeaten in their last five league matches.

Last season's FA Cup semi-finalists have conceded just three goals in that time, and Arsenal need only look at the champions to learn about the threat they pose - it is less than a month since Wolves stunned Manchester City at Etihad Stadium, Adama Traore scoring two late goals in a 2-0 victory.

All eyes will be on Xhaka, should he play, as fifth-placed Arsenal seek to stave off the challenge of five teams within three points of them in the Premier League table.

EMERY MUST FIND MEN WHO CAN GO THE DISTANCE

Unai Emery has rotated his Arsenal midfield continuously this season and he has no shortage of match-fit replacements for Xhaka should he opt to leave his under-fire playmaker out against Wolves.

Lucas Torreira and Joe Willock have both played deep-lying midfield roles in recent matches and Emery may opt to trust one of them alongside Matteo Guendouzi in what is likely to be a high-octane battle in the middle of the park.

Nuno likes to pack the middle of his midfield in away games and the combination of Leander Dendoncker, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho helped Wolves come from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Newcastle United last time out.

That game followed a familiar pattern for Wolves, who have conceded the first goal in more Premier League matches (seven) than any other side this season, though they have come back to draw five of those games.

While the average time Arsenal take to score their first goal in Premier League matches is 39 minutes, Wolves take an average of 61 minutes to find the net.

Twice in league games this season Arsenal have led by more than one goal only to draw 2-2. As they go up against the division's comeback specialists, they can ill afford to slip up again.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: GRANIT XHAKA V RUBEN NEVES

Having left him out of the rollercoaster EFL Cup defeat to Liverpool at Anfield, Emery has a big decision to make about whether to recall the much-maligned Xhaka.

Gunners greats Ian Wright, Nigel Winterburn and Emmanuel Petit have been among the many to condemn his actions but a return to the XI has not been ruled out.

Should he get the nod, Xhaka could win back some favour with supporters by getting the better of Neves in a key midfield battle.

The pair operate in similar roles to vastly differing degrees of adulation, even as the Opta data portrays Wolves star Neves as generally less effective than the Arsenal skipper.

Xhaka has created four more scoring chances, registered three more tackles and provided three more blocks in the Premier League this season despite playing one game less.

He has additionally contested 33 more duels at a superior success rate and his passing accuracy of 86.54 per cent is comfortably in advance of Neves' 75.45 per cent.

However, the Portuguese former Porto man can lay claim to having made seven more interceptions than Xhaka, a skill that will prove useful as the visitors attempt to stymie their opponents' play in north London.

FORM GUIDE: WOLVES IN CAPITAL MOOD

The prospect of a trip to London will not daunt Wolves, who have not lost a Premier League match in the capital since March 2012, when Fulham thumped them 5-0.

They have won three and drawn four of their seven subsequent matches in the city, and their recent form has been good no matter where they play.

Nuno's men have scored in each of their last nine Premier League games and could set a club record in the competition by finding the net on Saturday. Only table-topping Liverpool (19) are on a longer current goal-scoring run in the competition.

Arsenal must make the most of early opportunities, given that Wolves have scored a league-high 85 per cent of their Premier League goals in the second half of games this season (11/13), and Emery will take heart from his side's imperious home record on Saturday afternoons.

Arsenal have not lost at home at this time on a Saturday since the opening day of the 2013-14 season (1-3 vs Aston Villa), winning 20 and drawing two since then.

Goals are rarely in short supply at the Emirates, where Arsenal have scored in each of their last 23 league games, but the Gunners have kept just one clean sheet in their last seven.

HISTORY SAYS...

Arsenal have faced Wolves 10 times in the Premier League, breezing to consecutive victories in their first six matches against them in the competition.

Since then, however, they have won just one of their last four (D2, L1) and they failed to win either of their clashes with Nuno's newly promoted side in 2018-19.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan rescued a point for the Gunners in this fixture last season, scoring an 86th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw, and Wolves were 3-1 winners when the sides met at Molineux in April.

That victory ended a run of 16 league games without victory against the Gunners and another win on Saturday would see Wolves recording consecutive top-flight wins against them for the first time since September 1979 (a run of three).

Wolves defender Willy Boly will be out for "a number of months" after surgery on a fractured fibula.

The 28-year-old damaged the bone in his left ankle during training last Saturday and subsequently missed the 1-1 Premier League draw with Newcastle United.

The club confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that Boly is set to be sidelined for some time, although they have not discounted a possible return this season.

Wolves head of medical Phil Hayward said via the club's website: "Willy had surgery in London this morning to repair the bone with a small metal plate and screws.

"The procedure went as planned with no complications and he will now return to Compton to begin the early stages of his rehabilitation.

"Willy will be in a boot for the first six weeks, working hard to maintain fitness and muscle bulk in the leg before progressing to more functional activities.

"In terms of time scales, a lot depends on how he progresses in the first few weeks and how well the fracture heals."

Boly has made 16 appearances in the Premier League and Europa League this season and scored the only goal in a 1-0 win at Besiktas earlier this month.

Wolves extended their unbeaten Premier League run to five matches after Jonny Castro Otto took advantage of a Martin Dubravka error to earn a 1-1 draw with Newcastle United, who ended the game with 10 men.

Newcastle's waves of first-half pressure almost paid off when Miguel Almiron lashed a shot into the side-netting after outpacing Romain Saiss.

Less than three minutes later Jamaal Lascelles broke the deadlock, rising at the near post to meet Federico Fernandez's cross with a crashing downward header that gave Rui Patricio no chance.

Wolves raised their game in the second half and Diogo Jota was denied in a one-on-one with Dubravka when the Slovakian goalkeeper reacted quickly to block his low, close-range shot.

But Dubravka was at fault for the equaliser, parrying Matt Doherty's cross right into the path of Jonny, who slammed a first-time shot back into the net to level the match.

Sean Longstaff was sent off for a clumsy challenge on Ruben Neves with eight minutes remaining, but the 10 men of Newcastle survived an intense late spell of Wolves pressure to emerge with a point.

Wolves have suffered a major blow after defender Willy Boly suffered a suspected broken ankle in training on Saturday.

Boly has not travelled with the team for Sunday's Premier League match away to Newcastle United.

A full diagnosis and a decision on whether the 28-year-old requires surgery will follow after he has undergone further tests.

"Unfortunately, Willy Boly sustained a serious injury to his left ankle in training," said Wolves' head of medical Phil Hayward.

"Initial tests show a fracture to his fibula and he will undergo further imaging over the coming days. If surgery is required that will take place during the next week."

Boly has been a crucial player for manager Nuno Espirito Santo this season, starting eight of Wolves' nine Premier League games after playing in 36 top-flight matches last season.

He scored the winner in Wolves' Europa League win away to Besiktas earlier this month and has helped his side go on a seven-match unbeaten run that has spanned over a month.

Reports this week suggested the club were keen to tie Boly down to a new contract amid speculation he was garnering interest from Champions League teams in England and overseas.

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