Champions League Group Stage Preview
United’s second opponent in Stage B of this year’s Champions League are the runners-up in last season Bundesliga, VFL Wolfsburg.
Wolfsburg are a team that has risen to prominence in recent years; backed by the financial muscle of the currently under fire German car maker Volkswagen the companies works side and are based in the new town founded by the company in 1938. VFL Wolfsburg was founded in 1945 and have spent the majority of their history in the lower leagues before eventually reaching the Bundesliga for the first time in 1997. They struggled initially to stay in the Bundesliga they established themselves and then 2007 onwards began to make an impact. Under Felix Magath they won their only Bundesliga to date in 2008. Last year under current coach Dietar Heckling they had their most successful season to date, not only finishing second but also winning the German Cup beating Borussia Dortmund. At the start of this season they defeated Bayern Munich on penalties in the German equivalent of the Community Shield, the DFL-Supercup.
Dietmar Heckling typically employs a standard 4-2-3-1 shape and plays a similarly standard counter-attacking approach. His team are adept at soaking up pressure and waiting their opportunity to strike; United will have to be aware of this, especially in the home game at Old Trafford.
The star of the show last season was Belgian international Kevin De Bryune, whilst another former Chelsea player Andre Schurrle was signed in February of this year. De Bryune has obviously now moved on and the club also lost another key player in Ivan Perisic who has moved to Internazionale. The club has moved to strengthen however signing the highly rated young midfield player Julian Draxler from Schalke04, and central defender Dante from Bayern Munich. The Brazilian Luis Gustavo playing as a pivot is the key to their system. At the moment Wolfsburg sit 4th in the Bundesliga having drawn 1-1 in their home game against bottom side Hanover 96 at the weekend and now having played 7 games.
United and Wolfsburg have met before in the 2009-10 Champions’ League group stages; then as now we shared a group with CSKA Moscow. United beat Wolfsburg 2-1 at home and 3-1 away with Wolfsburg finishing third in the group and so failing to qualify for the Knock-out stages as United won the group. They have more European experience than the last time we met and United will have to on their game to make an impact against this side, but let’s hope for a repeat.