Carabao Cup preview: Wolves v Gillingham – Julen Lopetegui takes center stage in Wolves’ first final

Julen Lopetegui at the Molineux unveiling party (Getty Images)

A new era begins tonight as Lopetegui takes charge of his first game as head coach, in a potential banana-skin showdown with the League Two strugglers.

Although many fans will have one look at Wolves’ dismal position in the Premier League, the Spaniard is keen to remain laser-focused on the night’s action at Molineux as he calls on his players to prove their worth.

“The most important thing is to focus only on the next match,” said Lopetegui. “We will play a lot of finals. We have to keep this in mind, that we will have a lot of finals and that every game is a final.

“We are talking about the Carabao Cup and you have no other choice but to win. We have to focus on this match and then we can talk about the Premier League.

“We’ll play with the best squad we think we can. We have different moments for different players. Some players only came back for three or four days.

“We have to choose the best options and the best team to beat Gillingham.

“They knocked out Brentford and this is the trophy, so they will be a very dangerous team.

“Anything can happen because it’s only one game, so we have to be ready. We’re alert and we know how they usually play. We’ll be ready with the answer.”

“I think Neil Harris and Gillingham are very clear on how they want to play and we have to be ready to develop in the best way we can.

“It’s exciting to play in the Carabao Cup and we want to win. We know it’s going to be a difficult task, that’s football and we know what can happen, so we have to be ready.

“We want to win this match and prepare to win the title, why not?”

Lopetegui had to wait more than a month before his first game in training with the team, due to the World Cup break.

When asked if he was keen to start matches, he added: “I’m excited. I have a great vision for Molyneux and I feel the support of our fans and of course to see the answer from my players.”

“At the same time, I’m worried because I know the kind of games and Gillingham’s style.

“They are very clear about the way they are going to play this match. This type of team has nothing to lose and they have key points to damage the opponent.”

Johny Castro Otto and Boubacar Traore were all injured during the match, while Portugal internationals Jose Sa, Ruben Neves and Matheus Nunes are all available for selection.

“They’ve come back in a good way and they’re always focused here,” said Lopetegui.

“The World Cup is a big experience for all the players but they are focused here and will help us achieve our goal and go further in the cup.”

Third-choice goalkeeper Jackson Smith played for the Under-21s yesterday, meaning it is likely that Sa will be involved in some capacity. Academy teammates Dexter Lembekisa, Harvey Griffiths, Joe Hodge, Kim Campbell and Nathan Fraser are not involved, meaning they could make an impact on the first team tonight.

Hodge played in both of the friendlies in Marbella and he made a definite impression on Lopetegui, meaning he may have started, having made his first start in the last round against Leeds United.

When asked if anyone surprised him in training, Lopetegui said: “When you know more about your players, sometimes your ideas about them can change. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse. The best way for me as a coach is the daily commitment of all the players.

“For example, we have Hodge. I think he played at a very high level with us in the friendlies.”

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