Lopetegui has been preparing for his biggest challenge yet as Wolves struggle to stay in the Premier League

Lopetegui has been preparing for his biggest challenge yet as Wolves struggle to stay in the Premier League

Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui thinks getting the final results needed to secure Premier League status could prove to be the toughest step yet.

Back-to-back victories over Chelsea and Brentford had secured Wolves. But their progression was halted with a 2-1 defeat at Leicester City where Lopetegui’s side had taken an early lead.

Wolves welcome Crystal Palace – who are in fine form under Roy Hodgson – to Molineux on Tuesday night. A win for the hosts would take them to 37 points and that could be enough to keep them on their feet.

The current six-point gap from the relegation zone is certainly a more positive outlook at Molineux than when Lopetegui was appointed in November when Wolves they were penultimate.

The former Sevilla, Real Madrid and Spain manager, however, knows the job is not yet complete and crossing the line could prove to be his biggest challenge to date.

«We fought very hard for this chance (to stay up), so it’s a good thing to think about where we were four months ago and now about the chance we have,» said Lopetegui.

But in football the most difficult thing is always the step you have to take. We have to put the emphasis there.»

Of the six remaining Premier League games, three are at home, with relegation battling Everton coming to Molineux on 20 May.

Lopetegui believes that having the public fully behind them could make all the difference.

«The spirit and energy that our supporters can build will be key for us, but especially in the bad moments of the match because you’ll have it when you’re playing against very good teams,» he said.

“We have to feel this spirit and this energy and I’m sure they understand that we have arrived at the key moments of the season.

«It’s very important to create this atmosphere around the team that encourages you when you’re tired and have doubts.»

Lopetegui knows Palace will arrive determined to continue their progress under Roy Hodgson.

«The last matches they have played away, they have won big and clearly outplayed their opponents, that’s why the quality of their players is undoubtedly very high,» Lopetegui said at a press conference.

“As you get closer to the end of the season, every game becomes more important.

«We know it, but we have to focus on being ready in our work, how we want to play and how we will develop our idea on the pitch tomorrow, so it’s important to think about us.»

Wolves will be monitoring midfielder Mario Lemina, who was forced off at half-time against Leicester with a hamstring problem.

Captain Ruben Neves had to settle for a place on the bench after returning from suspension, replacing Lemina for the second half.

Lopetegui has defended his team selection, as well as Neves’ influence, as he tries to find the right balance in the final games of the season.

“We won with Ruben and we won without Ruben. The important thing is to highlight how the team works» said the Wolves boss.

“Ruben is a very good player for us, but we have competition (in the team). Luckily the other midfielders came forward (during his suspension).

«Now it’s up to us to choose the right formation for each game and be able to compete, but I always want to emphasize teamwork above the names.»

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