Hughton praises Seagulls spirit

Brighton head coach Chris Hughton was pleased with the efforts of his players after the Seagulls earned a potentially precious point from a goalless draw at Wolves.

Albion ended a run of five straight defeats in all competitions with a dogged display at Molineux, although they were unable to end a run of six games without a goal which has seen them far too close for comfort to the relegation places.

Hughton, though, was happy with the spirt shown by his side and was content with a hard-fought share of the spoils which moved his team three pints clear of the drop zone.

He told Sky Sports: "We asked the players for a response and we certainly got that with what they were prepared to give and how hard they were prepared to work.

"It's hard coming here as they've got so many good footballers. You know if you open up too much, they can hurt you. We could've been better with our link play, the times that we broke.

"But we knew it would be difficult and we knew if we could keep a clean sheet we would give ourselves a chance.

"For long periods we've been okay in the division and we're on the back of two defeats that hurt us, and people questioned our confidence.

"But you can't become a bad team overnight. This has hopefully set us up for what will be another four difficult games."

Brighton are now priced at 9/2 to be relegated this season, while they are 1/7 to avoid the drop and maintain their Premier League status.

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Hughton pinning hopes on leaders

Chris Hughton feels he has enough experienced players in the Brighton dressing room to save them from Premier League relegation.

The Seagulls, 9/4 to be relegated, have lost their last four matches in the top-flight, all without scoring, and are now just two points outside the drop zone.

Tuesday's defeat to fellow strugglers Cardiff City has left the south coast outfit in the mire as they prepare to travel to Wolves on Saturday.

Nuno Espirito Santo's still have something to play for as they battle for a top seven finish, which could be good enough for European football, so there is plenty at stake at Molineux.

Hughton has called on his side to play without fear when they travel to the Midlands, believing the experienced members of his squad can help the rest of his players keep their cool.

Skipper Bruno has been brought back into the side in the hope he can help to lead Brighton away from their current position in the Premier League table.

Hughton told the Argus: "If I look at the game now, maybe when I managed at Newcastle we had probably four or five strong characters, maybe more.

"Speaking to other managers, the changing room is different now. Perhaps the screamers, shouters and organisers, who would get hold of people… your Nicky Butts and Nolans, there aren't so many in the game.

"I've got enough compared to others. I have strong characters and leader-types in the changing-room, more than probably most teams. Other teams will be different and have them in abundance, but we have enough.

"With Bruno, part of the reason was more for his experience. He's always been a different type of leader. He's not someone who'll scream and shout, dig you out. But he's someone the players look up to and he leads by example."

Brighton have at least been given a boost with no fresh injury concerns for Saturday's game, although they will be without Anthony Knockaert due to suspension.

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Patricio keen to improve further

Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio is eager to keep on improving, having enjoyed a successful first season so far with Premier League new boys Wolves.

The men from Molineux have impressed on their return to the top-flight and are still in contention to finish in seventh place in the table, with Patricio having made a big impression for compatriot Nuno Espirito Santo's side.

However, the former Sporting Lisbon star, who has won 79 caps for his country, is confident that there is still more to come from him in the near future.

Patricio told the Express & Star: "At the end of my first year here I've noticed some rapid growth, because it's a new competition, everything is completely different.

"The game is different, the tactics are different. It's been a very good experience – I take advantage of every game and of every training session to grow, to evolve.

"I will continue to do that. In every training session, I want to develop, Of course I'm very happy to be doing well, but I still want to do better. I want to adapt further.

"Every day in every training session, in every game, I want to do better."

Wolves are back in action on Saturday, when they play host to a Brighton side still struggling to pull clear of relegation danger.

The meeting of the two teams at the Amex Stadium earlier this season ended in a 1-0 win for the hosts, with Glenn Murray netting the only goal of the game.

Wolves are 8/11 to win the game on Saturday, are 13/2 to secure a 2-0 victory and are 1/1 to keep a clean sheet against the Seagulls.

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Saints close on safety

Ralph Hasenhuttl 'guaranteed' that Southampton will 'do everything we can to get to 40 points' after their 3-1 win over Wolves at St Mary's.

The Saints are closing in on survival after their latest success, now with 36 points and eight clear of Cardiff in the final relegation spot.

Nathan Redmond scored twice and substitute Shane Long scored a third as Southampton capitalised on a lacklustre Wolves side that had thrown away a two-goal lead in losing their FA Cup semi-final to Watford last Sunday.

The 40-point mark has often been a target set by managers to secure Premier League survival and Hasenhuttl has identified that as the place his side need to be.

"We lost here not long ago against Cardiff and it seemed it [battle against relegation] would go right to the end, so we are very happy," he said.

"I can guarantee we will do everything we can to get to 40 points."

Southampton are 21/10 to win their next game at Newcastle, the Magpies currently two points above them in 15th spot. Newcastle are 13/10 on the back of their win over Leicester on Friday, while the draw at St James' Park is 11/5.

Nuno Espirito Santo meanwhile admitted that Wolves simply were not good enough defensively.

"Our defensive structure was not the best – it is something that we have to look at," he said.

"After we conceded the opener we controlled the game well and made chances until we drew level. We then went behind and were not able to stand up again and the second half was poor.

"We left too many spaces and we allowed them to play. Today they were better than us and we have to regroup and bounce back immediately."

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Jota eyes Wolves response

Wolves star Diogo Jota says it's vital his side bounce back quickly from their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Watford when they return to Premier League duties.

The West Midlands outfit were two goals up at Wembley on Sunday before eventually losing 2-2 in extra-time to the Hornets.

Jota has admitted the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow, especially considering the strong position his side were in action Javi Gracia's men.

"It's a bad feeling," forward Jota. "We thought that we had the game in our hands.
 
"We had the chance to go to the final in our hands and we wasted it in the little minutes, so the feeling is not good.

"I think, of course, they did their job. The first goal is an amazing goal because they were starving, and the goal just happens.

"It's a great goal and it gives them help, and in the last minute it's a penalty so we did a very good game.

"But unfortunately for us they scored twice, and they had extra time – and they were better than us in extra time."

Sunday's loss is a hammer blow Wolves can't afford to dwell for too long on as the push for European qualification in the Premier League continues.

"It's time to rest now and then we're going to think about the Southampton game," Jota added. "Because we have a few games to go and we can achieve good things until the end."

Wolves are 19/10 to win, 21/10 to draw and 6/4 to lose against the Saints.

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Supersub sends Hornets through

Gerard Deulofeu was the hero for Watford who made a remarkable comeback to beat Wolves and reach the FA Cup final.

The Hornets will meet Manchester City back at Wembley next month following their win over Wolves 3-2 after extra-time.

Wolves looked to be on their way to the final, leading 2-0 with just 11 minutes of the original 90 remaining.

However, Deulofeu, with a sublime chip, gave Watford a lifeline and a penalty with seconds remaining sent the match into extra-time.

There Deulofeu again showed his class to burst through for his second goal and the match winner that sends Watford to just their second ever FA Cup final.

It was Wolves who made the brighter start and they went close just five minutes into the game, awarded a free kick just outside the penalty area which Joao Moutinho got over the ball and was beating Heurelho Gomes in goal only to land on the roof of the net.

Andre Gray had a good chance to open the scoring for Watford but his miss appeared costly when Wolves took the lead minutes later. A short corner found Diogo Jota and his perfect cross found Matt Doherty who nodded home.

Wolves were the first to show in the second period and they looked to have made the game safe just after the hour mark. Raul Jimenez scoring a fantastic second, chesting the ball down in the area and hooking the ball past Gomes with great technique.

A comeback seemed unlikely but Watford got back into the game on 79 minutes with a beautiful goal from Deulofeu who found space in the area to produce an inspired disguised chip which deceived Ruddy.

From nothing the Hornets were back in the game and they were in the ascendancy, putting pressure on the Wolves defence for the first time in the game.

It looked too late but in added time they equalised from the penalty spot. Leander Dendoncker was adjudged to have fouled Troy Deeney in the box and after VAR confirmed the decision, Deeney himself took the kick, powerfully beating Ruddy.

Wolves recovered themselves in extra-time but the momentum stayed with Watford and Deulofeu was the hero, playing a one-two with Gray and bursting through to fire home.

Wolves kept going and had half chances to take the game to penalties but the Hornets held on to win a thrilling semi-final and will be back at Wembley to face Manchester City in the FA Cup final in May.

Watford are 13/2 to win the FA Cup final with City 4/11. Watford are 16/1 to win the final 1-0.

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Nuno calls for Wolves focus

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo has called for his side not get carried away with their big day at Wembley and focus on the job of beating Watford in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final.

Wolves head to the capital looking for revenge against the Hornets, after Javi Gracia's side managed to secure a 2-0 win over the West Midlanders at Molineux earlier this season.

Wolves have no fresh injury concerns for the trip to Wembley, with keeper John Ruddy expected to keep his place between the sticks after playing in all their previous FA Cup games this season.

Nuno is looking forward to the game but has urged his players not to let the occasion get to them, with an FA Cup final potentially just 90 minutes away.

He said: "Focus on the game, don't think about anything else and what it could mean or what could happen after.

"Make the game special. We have to play just like another game and make it special for that to team something. We know, everyone knows what it could mean.

"But we have to play it just like another game, focus on the actions and tasks and make it special for that to mean something."

Watford are 21/10 to win, 23/10 to draw and 6/4 to lose against Wolves.

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Pereyra faces race against time

Watford boss Javi Gracia has indicated that Roberto Pereyra could miss Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Wolves at Wembley due to a hip injury.

The 28-year-old Argentinian has not been able to train since being substituted at half time on Tuesday in the 4-1 Premier League victory against Fulham.

Gracia said: "Pereyra felt some pain but I think he can be ready for the next game.

"Roberto is an important player for us but if he is not available I have other players ready and waiting for the chance to play."

Tom Cleverley has already been ruled out of the match because of a calf problem, but Isaac Success (knee) and Adalberto Penaranda (hamstring) are making good progress from their injuries and could feature at Wembley.

"In this moment, we have Tom Cleverley, Isaac Success, Adalberto Penaranda and Roberto Pereyra not training with the team," Gracia added.

"Pereyra and Success will train on Friday and we will see. They are doubts. Cleverley is out and I don't know how much time he will need. In the next few days it is not possible for him to play."

The Hornets can be backed at 19/20 to qualify for the FA Cup final and 10/1 to win the competition outright. Andre Gray is 9/4 to score at any time at Wembley.

Hughes wary of ‘brilliant’ Wolves

Watford midfielder Will Hughes is not taking victory against Wolves in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley for granted.

The Hornets beat Wolves 2-0 at Molineux in October but former Derby County man Hughes is only too aware that Nuno Espirito Santo's side are seventh in the Premier League table and have knocked Liverpool and Manchester United out of the FA Cup.

Hughes is 5/1 to score at any time against Wolves while Watford can be backed at 10/1 to win the FA Cup this season for the first time in their history.

"I've never been this far in the FA Cup so I'm quite excited about it," the 24-year-old said. "At the moment Wolves are the best of the rest, the table proves that, so we're not going to take for granted that we beat them earlier on in the season.

"It's a semi-final, anything can happen. They've come on leaps and bounds this season and improved so it's going to be a brilliant game with two brilliant teams.

"They've got a brilliant squad and you might be surprised at how well they're doing, but it's a game of details in the Premier League and they've obviously got it right."

Hughes played at Wembley five years ago when Derby County lost 1-0 to QPR in the Championship play-off final.

He added: "I played in a play-off final there which didn't really end too well for me, but the boys are experienced and I don't think the occasion will come much into it.

"Obviously it hurt, but it won't be in my mind come Sunday."

Jimenez aiming high with Wolves

Striker Raul Jimenez has his sights set on helping Wolves build on a fine first season back in the Premier League, having signed on permanently at Molineux.

The 27-year-old Mexico international has scored 15 goals in 37 appearances in all competitions since arriving from Benfica last summer on a season-long loan.

And his success has been rewarded with a long-term stay which extends all the way to the summer of 2023, with the efforts of Jimenez having helped Wolves enjoy a superb season to date.

The men from Molineux currently stand in seventh place in the Premier League table and have also progressed through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where they will face Watford – at Wembley on Sunday.

Jimenez told the official Wolves website: "I've enjoyed my time here. We've had some good moments, some bad moments; but the best ones have been so good and I'm very happy for that.

"I want to make history here at the club. With my team-mates, I want to put the club back into the top places in the Premier League. I think we all want that and have that ambition.

"For myself personally, I want to keep scoring for the rest of the time I am here and that's going to be my main goal."

Jimenez, who has already scored in FA Cup wins over Liverpool and Manchester United this season, is 6/4 to find the net at any time on Sunday, with Wolves 7/10 to reach the final at the expense of the Hornets.

Meanwhile, Wanderers are 4/1 to lift the FA Cup for the first time since 1960.

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