Bruno Lage has praised the spirit in the Wolves camp ahead of Saturday’s derby clash with Aston Villa after the old gold squad reunited following a successful international break.
All of the Wolves players taking part in qualification games during the past week have helped their national teams book a place at the World Cup this winter, joining their club teammates who were already set for Qatar, and Lage was pleased that all of his players have come back fit and ready to face their West Midlands rivals at Molineux.
On players returning from international break
“Everyone came back with good news from national teams because every player [involved in qualifying] got to the World Cup, and we are just waiting for Tony Roberts and Wales, because they didn’t play, I think they will play in the first days of June, but everyone else will go to the World Cup.
“It was good news and it was a good environment yesterday because everyone came back with the good news. I was happy because I was supporting everyone, so I was happy for them because qualifying for a World Cup is a big moment for everyone.
“It means that the club is doing the right job through the years. I’ve been saying since day one that we’re a strong squad with top players and top men. They’re good men and it’s made it a good environment here and makes it easy to work here because the players, every time, are ready to work the way we want. It’s an amazing place because they are good players and good men.”
On preparing for Saturday’s match
“This week, we’ve changed a little bit of our routine because the players have all come back from different environments. We have changed to training in the afternoon as they travelled in the morning and gives us one more day with them to work and we go specific with the things we need to do in the game.
“It’s maybe the week when we spend more time in the analysis room to watch the things we are doing, the things we need to do for the game and working on our strategy because we need to recover.
“Some of them played two games with travelling between, so they need to recover and see which ones are more ready to play the next game. We have a lot of players playing around the world, so we need to be careful about this and take care of our individuals.”
On facing a West Midlands derby
“The players just arrived yesterday and the talk was about the national team, but for sure, every game here is an important one, and when you’re playing your rivals and derbies and when the cities are near, it’s very important.
“We know the importance for the fans and we go with that mentality to win the game. Every time we put our target so high and the pressure so high for what we want in the behaviour of the team, other things come naturally from the players.
“They know the meaning of derbies and they know the importance of these games, so we don’t need to do anything special because they already know.”
On Gerrard’s impact at Villa Park
“He’s changed the system and the system has given them a different idea. I remember watching some games from Rangers, especially Rangers/Sporting and Benfica/Rangers also, and the idea is there, but not with one striker and two wingers, it’s a little bit different, two strikers and one offensive midfielder.
“Coutinho is there and he can play in the middle, he can go on the right, he can go on the left, he can play between the lines, he can play as midfielder in the diamond, and that’s the different dynamic. This is going to be the first time we’re going to play against a system like that, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.
“A top player like Gerrard was, he has a lot of experience as a manager now. When you look for him and the career he had as a player and also the work he did in Rangers, it’s respect. He had the job done as a player and he has the job done as a manager. But tomorrow, when we start the game, there’s a lot of respect for them but after it’s our will to try to win the game.
“They know that we are a strong team as well and in a good moment. That is why it’s exciting and going to be a good game. Aston Villa is a top club and it will be another challenge for us to play the way we want to play, at home, in front of our fans.”
The work continues at Compton.— Wolves (@Wolves) March 30, 2022
On Ruben Neves’ absence
“He’s a big loss for us at the moment. He’s having a good season and he’s come back from what he did in the past, and that’s the kind of player, if you want to create a good team, we can have with us.
“That’s the kind of player we need to look forward, that’s the kind of big players who can put us in the next level. Ruben is doing a fantastic job in Wolves, and it’s difficult to find a player like him, especially when you have a guy who can defend and a guy who can attack.
“Sometimes you just have one guy who attacks, sometimes you just have one guy who can defend, and he can do both. He can do both, he can score goals and he can assist. It’s very hard to find and I want the best for his career. If he wants to remain with us, for sure we will be happy and stronger.”
On approaching the business end of the season
“The surprise to us, even for me, since the beginning we don’t do any revolution, but we do the evolution for the games we want to play. In two or three weeks and the way we start the season, playing a little more with the ball, play more in the spaces inside, try to link the game and control more of the game with the ball.
“Sometimes we have some problems when teams come hard to press, but we are learning with that. I’m happy and the way we play, the way we’re creating some chances, if we’d have scored more goals, I think we’d be talking not just about a good season but about a fantastic season.
“The first half against Leeds was our best 45 minutes since I arrived and we need to go with the ambition to play this way. With confidence and no fear to play this way.”