Ruben Neves has paid tribute to the Wolves fans and their continued backing across the far reaches of Europe, as thousands of old gold supporters flock to Barcelona for this evening’s Europa League clash with RCD Espanyol.
The midfielder, who praised the ‘special’ atmosphere created by Wolves supporters both home and away since he arrived at the club almost three years ago, is also pleased to have provided moments of magic with his spectacular long-range efforts – the last of which came in last week’s first leg at Molineux.
On fans supporting the team across Europe
“It’s really special. Our fans are amazing and ever since I came here in the Championship, the atmosphere was always unbelievable – even when we play away from home. Sometimes we are playing away and all you can listen to on the pitch is our fans singing. It seems like we are playing at home.
“Of course, it’s easier when you support a team that is on good form, but we had some bad moments as well and they were always there for us. We had a lot of games without a win this season, last season as well, and they always believed in the project, believed in the team, and that helped us a lot to play, and gives us a lot of motivation.
“We have to thank them as well, because they are part of it, they are part of our job and they can be sure we will do again our best to make them happy.”
On Espanyol changing players in the first leg
“I’m not expecting that [again]. [In the first leg] we prepared for the way they play, we didn’t know what players the coach would choose for that game, but we know how they play, we knew how they want to play and they caused a lot of problems for us in the first-half, and they can have the ball for a long time in the game and have a lot of quality with the ball on their offensive game, but after the half-time of the first leg, we did some adjustments which fortunately worked for us.
“But it’s a different game [in the second leg] and we cannot think about the first leg as that could get us in trouble. They have a lot of quality, so we have to be at our best.
“Our philosophy is always game by game, and tomorrow we have a really important game to try to win. We just have focus on the second leg, do our game like we normally do, and try to play our game, and play to win the match.”
On Wolves’ Europa League journey
“I think we have got stronger as the competition has gone on, but that’s normal. We started playing on our pre-season, in our first games, so it was up to us to improve every single game and know I think we are better than we were when we started our journey in Europe.
“But we did great results as well, it’s our goal, win every single game that we play, and try to improve from tomorrow to the next game as well.
“We’re on a very good moment, but we have our feet on the ground. We know what we’re capable of, but we have to be focused on our competitions at the moment, to keep our place and to keep doing the things that we are at the moment.”
On regularly scoring sublime goals
“I try to do it every game. If I can do it every game then it’s good for me, it’s good for the team, but if I have the chance to take my risk and shoot, I will do it because I know it’s a good solution for the team, and every time I can I try to help the team.
“From the academy, I always liked to shoot from outside the box, so I always tried to improve on that part of my game.
“I’ve always practiced a lot, ever since I was a kid, every time I had a chance I would play football at home with my friends, so that is something that comes with me from a long time ago. My goal is to improve on that because I know it’s important for me.
“I think it’s about my position. I don’t go inside the box too many times in a game, so every time I have chance to shoot outside the box I try, because it’s a solution for the team and if I can help the team by shooting outside the box, I’ll be happy.”
On playing a 3-5-2 compared to a 3-4-3
“We have a great squad and we have a lot of solutions in our shape, so it depends on the game. The coach chooses the best shape on the game for us to play and it doesn’t matter if I play as a ‘pivot’ in a five, or as a central midfielder in a four, I just want to do my best.
“Even when I play a little bit more behind, I still have chances to shoot because we press high on the second balls, on the crosses and the corners, so I don’t think the formation makes much difference for me.”