Wolverhampton Wanderers vs CrusadersUEFA Europa League, KO: 19:45 Jul 25, 2019, Molineux
MEMORIES will come flooding back for fans of a certain vintage when Wolverhampton Wanderers make their long-awaited return to the European arena.
Wolves were one of the early English pioneers in European competition, facing the likes of Barcelona, Red Star Belgrade, Schalke and Rangers in the late 50s and early 60s.
And in 1972 they went all the way to the UEFA Cup Final, seeing off Juventus before being pipped at the post by Spurs in the showpiece.
But it's almost 40 years since they last graced the European arena, bowing out of the 1980-81 UEFA Cup in the first round to Dutch masters PSV Eindhoven.
Having welcomed some of the biggest names in football to Molineux during those glory days, older fans might see it as a bit of a comedown to host tiny Crusaders in their first game back.
But most of the supporters who will pack the stadium to the rafters will have no memory of those previous adventures and will relish being part of a European campaign.
Plenty of English teams have viewed the Europa League as an unwelcome distraction in recent seasons but I can't see that happening to Wolves.
Like Burnley last season, they will see Europe as something to be savoured rather than endured, even though many blamed the Clarets' poor start to last season on the demands of fighting on two fronts.
I never subscribed to that theory anyway, given Burnley played just three ties – against Aberdeen, Basaksehir and Olympiakos – before bowing out.
Wolves look better equipped for a longer Euro return and I would be surprised if they failed to make the group stage, even though a tricky tie with Jablonec potentially awaits if they see off Crusaders.
It has been a quiet summer so far in the transfer market for Nuno Espirito Santo, only turning the loan signings of Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker into permanent deals.
The Wolves boss wants more new faces as he builds a squad to fight on two fronts but last season's team should have more than enough quality to take care of Crusaders.
The Northern Irish side won both legs against Torshavn in the last round for a 5-2 aggregate victory but this is a huge step up in class and they are as big as 100/1 with some firms for a Molineux win.
Wolves are 1/50 with most bookies and even a home win with a clean sheet is a best 2/7 with Boylesports. To get any value you need to be a bit creative but even Wolves scoring over 3.5 goals is short at 1/2 with Bet365.
Despite having a hugely impressive campaign last season, Wanderers rarely dished out a hiding, even against lower-league opposition in the cup.
They won by more than a two-goal margin just once, a 3-0 victory over West Ham, so I would be wary of backing them to rack up a cricket score here. For that reason, I fancy Wolves to score under 4.5 goals, which is 7/10 at Coral. If you're looking for a correct score then try 3-0 for Santo's side, which is 27/4 with Sportingbet.
Wolves have been pretty impressive in pre-season, beating Newcastle 4-0 in China before defeating Manchester City on penalties to lift the Premier League Asia Trophy.
That has boosted confidence in the ranks and the feelgood factor should continue with a comfortable win against the Northern Irish minnows.
I was hugely impressed by Diogo Jota last term and the forward should get off the mark against limited opposition. The bookies have still to price up the anytime scorer market but Jota is 5/2 with William Hill to score in both halves and that looks a decent option.
You can also get a bit of value by betting on when the first goal will be scored. William Hill offer 13/10 on it coming in the first 15 minutes and that looks a bit overpriced.
This UEFA Europa League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crusaders will be played on Jul 25, 2019 and kick off at 19:45