Wolfsburg v Manchester United: Unders the call with defences to dominate

If only the strikers would do their job eh gaffer?
If only the strikers would do their job eh gaffer?
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Manchester United may well need to win in Germany to reach the last 16, while Wolfsburg only need a point to progress. Our Bundesliga columnist Kevin Hatchard expects a tense evening at the Wolfsburg Arena...


"Wolfsburg have kept five clean sheets in their last ten matches, and they are yet to concede a goal at home in the group stage. United have kept eight clean sheets in their last 11 outings, and this could well be a game where they try to keep possession as well as possible and a nick a 1-0 result that would put them through."

Wolfsburg v Manchester United
Tuesday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport Europe


Wolfsburg

After finishing second in the Bundesliga with a series of stylish displays last season, Wolfsburg are now looking to establish themselves as regular Champions League qualifiers. With Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund over the hills and far away in this season's title race, and Wolfsburg's defence of the DFB Cup already over (they were played off the park by Bayern), this game against Manchester United is effectively the be-all and end-all of the Wolves' season.

Understandably, Wolfsburg aren't quite the team they were last season, as star player Kevin De Bruyne was lured to Manchester City. Without the Belgian, Wolfsburg have gone from being one of the best counter-attacking sides in Europe to a side that has barely scored any goals on the break this season.

That's not to say Wolfsburg don't have plenty of quality. Max Kruse, Andre Schurrle and Julian Draxler are all talented forwards who have represented Germany at senior level, and when he's given the right service, Dutchman Bas Dost is a lethal goal-poacher. At the other end, Naldo is a fine defensive leader, although I'm still not totally convinced by his fledgling partnership with fellow Brazilian Dante.

Wolfsburg are generally very strong at home (they have beaten CSKA Moscow and PSV in Germany this season), but they aren't unbeatable. They suffered their first Bundesliga home defeat since March 2014 against Dortmund at the weekend, as Shinji Kagawa grabbed a 93rd-minute winner. Bayern shredded them at the Volkswagen Arena in the DFB Cup, and in last season's Europa League Dieter Hecking's men lost to Everton in the group stage and Napoli in the knockout rounds.

Wolfsburg only need a point to progress, but Hecking insists they'll play to win. That's easy to say, but harder to do. The hosts wouldn't be human if they weren't a bit tentative, and those home defeats to Dortmund and Bayern this season will surely be in the back of their minds.

Midfield enforcer Luiz Gustavo faces a late fitness test on a persistent knee problem, but even if he is out, youngsters Joshua Guilavogui and Maxi Arnold have formed a solid partnership in the Brazilian's absence.


Manchester United

If you purely look at results, Louis an Gaal's Manchester United are progressing well. They are just three points off top spot in the Premier League, and they are one win away from the last 16 of the Champions League. However, the rumblings of discontent amongst the United faithful are growing louder. Red Devils' fans have been treated to a fast-paced, attacking style of play for decades, but Van Gaal's cloying possession game is putting noses out of joint. Sir Alex Ferguson painted in a myriad of bright colours, but Van Gaal insists on using grey pencil only.

United have racked up five goalless draws in their last nine games in all competitions, and since a 3-0 win at Everton in mid-October, they have scored just seven goals in ten matches. Of teams in the Premier League's top six, they have scored the fewest goals (20 in 15 games), and they have netted just five goals in five Champions League group-stage matches.

Ahead of their biggest game of the campaign, United have plenty of injury concerns. Skipper Wayne Rooney is out, and he'll be joined on the sidelines by Morgan Schneiderlin, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Antonio Valencia. Marouane Fellaini could support Anthony Martial in attack, but Martial has netted just once in his last 13 games, and Fellaini hasn't scored since the qualifying round against Club Brugge.


Match Odds

Wolfsburg are favourites at 2.3611/8, but that's not a price I'm particularly excited by, given that Hecking's side have come short at home this season against quality opposition. It's also difficult to assess what their approach to the game will be.

United have gone seven games unbeaten, and they have produced some decent away wins at Everton and Southampton this term, but given their injuries and their stuttering form in front of goal they are tough to support at 3.3512/5.

One way to go may be to back a draw in the Half Time market at 2.0811/10. This could well be a cautious affair, with neither team willing to take any early risks. Eight of United's last nine matches in all competitions have been level at the break.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals

Wolfsburg have kept five clean sheets in their last ten matches, and they are yet to concede a goal at home in the group stage. United have kept eight clean sheets in their last 11 outings, and this could well be a game where they try to keep possession as well as possible and a nick a 1-0 result that would put them through.

You could either go for Under 2.5 Goals at 1.845/6, or back No in the Both Teams To Score market at 1.9310/11.


Recommended Bets
Back Under 2.5 Goals at 1.845/6
Back Draw in the Half Time market at 2.26/5


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