Wolfsburg vs Manchester United: Four reasons United will progress in the Champions League

Louis van Gaal's side still have much to do

Tom Sheen@Tom_Sheen
Monday 07 December 2015 13:57


Wolfsburg enjoyed a brilliant 2014-15 season that saw them finish second in the Bundesliga and win the DFB-Pokal Cup for the first time in their history. It was just the second major honour in the club's history after the increasingly anamoalous title win in 2008-09.

But this season is not last season. Dieter Hecking's team are currently fifth in the division with 25 points from 15 matches, leaving them closer to the relegation zone than Bayern Munich. Their Cup defence is also over already after they were beaten in the second round by Bayern Munich.

Including that defeat, on 27 October, Wolfsburg have won just three of their last eight matches, drawing one.

Their home record

Heading into the weekend Wolfsburg had been unbeaten in 29 matches at the 30,000-seat Volkswagen Arena, a fact that had been cited in the build-up to the game as something Louis van Gaal's side really had to worry about.

But that came to an abrupt halt after an injury-time winner by Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa. Marco Reus had put the visitors into a first-half lead and they could have been further in front after Ilkay Gundogan and Sven Bender both hit the bar.

Wolfsburg improved in the second half, Dortmund keeper Roman Burki making four good saves, with Hecking's side seemingly salvaging a point (and that record) when Andre Schurrle was brought down, Ricardo Rodriguez converting the controversial penalty.

But there was still time for late drama, when Wolfsburg lost their concentration to allow Kagawa a close range finish.

Hecking chopping and changing

During this eight-game run of form Dieter Hecking has used a number of players and after defensive midfielder Luis Gustavo went down with injury even shifted his formation from a 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2.

Last season's breakout star Bas Dost, who finished the season with 20 goals, has just one in his last eight games and started Saturday's game from the bench. Julian Draxler only returned from injury at the weekend and Andre Schurrle has aalso been in and out of the team, with just two goals and two assists in that spell.

The side have 12 goals in those eight games but six of them came in a single win over Werder Bremen.

With Gustavo still out Hecking doesn't appear to know his strongest team.

United have already beaten them

It wasn't a pretty victory on 30 September but United managed to hold on against Wolfsburg to win 2-1 at Old Trafford, coming back from a goal down to beat the German side.

United have lost just once in Group B so far, in the first round of fixtures at PSV. Much like in the Premier League, United have struggled for goals but have been defensively excellent, conceding just two goals in the four games since that PSV defeat.

United may be missing players and not performing at their best, but Van Gaal's defensive style of possession-based football should be enough for them to sneaka tight victory.

...And one reason they won't

If United fail to win against Wolfsburg they can still go through with a draw or even a defeat, but would be reliant on CSKA getting a result.

That would be a mistake.

Despite much talk of team's hating to play away games in Moscow (insert reason about bad weather, hostile atmosphere or artificial pitch), the truth is that CSKA are in dreadful form at the moment, and PSV are flying high.

The Russian side may be top of their Premier League but they have won just one of the last five matches in the league and none of their last four. Across all competitions they haven't won in seven games, stretching back to 31 October when they beat relegation battlers Ufa (home of former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong).

On the other hand PSV Eindhoven are in superb form, unbeaten in nine matches. Their last defeat came at Wolfsburg, their only defeat in 12, and they have won seven of those nine games, with an impressive goalless draw at Old Trafford two weeks ago.

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