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Wolves: Championship leaders promoted to Premier League after Fulham draw with Brentford

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    Wolves have won 28 of their 42 league matches so far in 2017-18

    Wolves have been promoted to the Premier League with four games to spare as Fulham drew at home to Brentford.

    Fulham needed to win all four of their remaining matches to stand any chance of catching the Championship leaders.

    But Neal Maupay’s injury-time equaliser earned the Bees a 1-1 draw and ensured Wolves will play in the top flight next season for the first time since 2012.

    Wanderers, who host Birmingham on Sunday, require a maximum of four points to be crowned champions.

    Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have led the Championship table since 18 November and at one stage had looked on course to challenge the Championship record points tally of 106, set by Reading in 2005-06.

    A sequence of poor results in January and February saw that possibility diminish, although they could still reach a maximum of 104 points if they win their remaining four games, starting with Sunday’s West Midlands derby against Birmingham City.

    Chinese owners Fosun have spent heavily to help Wolves achieve promotion, although the method of their player recruitment has been questioned by some other Championship clubs.

    In March, Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani confirmed he had written a letter to the English Football League to clarify the legality of Wolves’ links with Portuguese agent Jorge Mendes, although the Molineux club do not believe they have broken any rules.

    Nuno spearheads Wolves revival

    Nuno Espirito Santo took Porto to the last 16 of the Champions League in 2016-17

    In the six seasons since they were last in the Premier League, Wolves have had six different managers, been down to League One and changed owners.

    Under Nuno Espirito Santo, who became head coach in May 2017, Wolves have built a side which many pundits believe is one of the best to be assembled in England’s second division.

    Financial backing was key to that. After twice breaking their transfer record last season to sign forwards Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa from Monaco and Benfica respectively, they then paid a Championship-record fee, reported to be £15.8m, to sign Portugal midfielder Ruben Neves from Porto in the summer.

    Nuno, who have previously managed Valencia and Porto, has employed a 3-4-3 formation which makes the most of Wolves’ pace and energy in wide positions but has also provided a solid base to keep 21 clean sheets in 42 league games so far.

    The former goalkeeper, who played under Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho at Porto, has made headlines in recent weeks for his exuberant celebrations at Middlesbrough and Cardiff.

    But, while the 44-year-old may have angered opposition managers Tony Pulis and Neil Warnock, the passion shown after those important late-season victories has only endeared him even more to the Molineux crowd witnessing some of the best football they have seen for decades.

    Star man – Ruben Neves

    Ruben Neves (left) is expected to be named in Portugal’s squad for the upcoming World Cup in Russia

    With such a hefty price tag, Neves simply had to deliver in his first season in English football and he has done so spectacularly.

    His recycling of the ball and passing range are critical to how Wolves play, while all six of his goals – the pick of them a stunning 30-yard volley in Wednesday’s 2-0 home win over Derby – have been scored from outside the penalty area.

    His performances have seen him called up to recent Portugal squads in the lead up the World Cup and shortlisted for the EFL’s Championship player of the year award alongside Fulham duo Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon.

    More to follow.

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