Wolves, Torino set up Europa playoff clash

The Associated Press

Wolverhampton’s Pedro Neto, left, celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal against Pyunik in Europa League action on Thursday.

AFPPARIS (AFP-Jiji) — Wolverhampton eased past Armenia’s Pyunik 4-0 and 8-0 on aggregate to reach the Europa League playoffs on Thursday, setting up a meeting with Torino of Italy.

Diogo Jota, on as a substitute, scored a spectacular late volley with debutant Pedro Neto, Morgan Gibbs-White and Ruben Vinagre also on the scoresheet as Nuno Espirito Santo’s Premier League side cruised through at Molineux.

Wolves, playing in Europe for the first time since 1980, face a Torino side that drew 1-1 at Belarusian side Shakhtyor to make it past the third qualifying round 6-1 on aggregate.

Nikolai Yanush salvaged some pride for the host, leveling on the night from the spot in stoppage time after Simone Zaza had given the Italians the lead 10 minutes from time, but Torino was already well out of sight.

Torino, which finished seventh in Serie A last season, is only in the competition after AC Milan accepted in June a voluntary ban from European soccer for the coming season over breaches of financial fair play rules.

Feyenoord, former European champion and two-time winner of the Europa League’s predecessor UEFA Cup, also had easy passage to the playoffs after a 1-1 draw with Dinamo Tbilisi that saw it through 5-1 on aggregate.

Rangers saw off FC Midtjylland 3-1 at Ibrox for a 7-3 aggregate with Alfredo Morelos scoring twice either side of a Sheyi Ojo strike.

Fellow Scots Aberdeen, however, lost 2-0 to Rijeka of Croatia and went out 4-0 on aggregate.

Messi to miss opener

MADRID (AFP-Jiji) — Lionel Messi will not be risked for Barcelona’s opening La Liga game against Athletic Bilbao on Friday, according to his coach Ernesto Valverde.

Messi sustained a calf injury in training last week and missed Barca’s last two preseason friendlies against Napoli.

The team begins its title defense at San Mames this weekend and Valverde has said Messi is yet to train ahead of the match.

“We are not going to take risks with any player, even less with Leo,” Valverde said in a press conference on Thursday. “He hasn’t trained or played with the team. We will wait a while but his recovery process is going well.”

Valverde was also asked about a potential move for Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar as Barcelona and Real Madrid scrap to sign the Brazilian before the transfer window closes on Sept. 2.

“I am not in the middle of these issues,” Valverde said. “I focus on the team and players I have, I can’t think about players in other teams.

“I have always kept a line of respect in that way because Neymar belongs to PSG. We will see what happens but I can’t tell you anything about it.”Speech

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