Our next opponents: Weghorst even beats Dzeko and Grafite

Only three days separate the first and second halves of the season – and the Werkself have another strong opponent coming up straightaway. VfL Wolfsburg are the visitors to the BayArena on Saturday (23 January, 15.30 CET). What's special about the team from Lower Saxony? The lowdown on our next opponents.


The 2-0 win at Mainz on Tuesday was not a game for the archives – but that was probably of no interest to coach Oliver Glasner. "It was a real battle with lots of tackles and long balls," was the assessment of the Wolfsburg coach for the three points picked up in Rhineland Hessen. His team did not shine on the pitch but did show other virtues: patience, defensive stability, efficiency. Qualities that make a top team. And VfL Wolfsburg have returned to being one of those under Glasner. The team from Lower Saxony are in the leading group in the Bundesliga and have been in the top third of the table since matchday seven – and they fully deserve to be there. Only two teams have beaten VfL in the Bundesliga: Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Wolfsburg came close to taking at least one point in both games. And the Wolves produced an impressive performance last weekend against RB Leipzig in a 2-2 draw. And the top team from Saxony did not tire afterwards saying they'd played a "really good opponent." A somewhat bitter blow for Wolfsburg: The third defeat of the season happened at just the wrong time. In the qualifier for the Europa League group stage, Glasner's team lost 2-1 to AEK Athens and thereby miss going through to the group stage of the competition. Wolfsburg play Schalke 04 in the Round of 16 in the DFB Cup at the beginning of February.


The fact VfL are doing so well at the moment no doubt has something to do with the personnel situation easing in recent weeks. The team were hit by a coronavirus outbreak just before Christmas – and now it is the after-effects of the Covid 19 infection rather than injury that is sidelining players. Jerome Roussillon, the usual left-back in the team, is not fully fit after his illness and will probably not play against Bayer 04. Central defender Marion Pongracic did return after his infection and played for 45 minutes in the 2-2 draw with Union Berlin although he did complain of breathing difficulties and was not in the squad for the games against Leipzig or Mainz.

Felix Klaus is missing for other reasons. The winger, who played for 20 minutes in the previous game against the Werkself, went out on loan to Fortuna Düsseldorf last week.


He gets a raw deal in comparison with the big names with the Bundesliga rivals but the numbers speak for themselves: Wout Weghorst has scored as many goals as Erling Haaland in the first half of the Bundesliga campaign – that is twelve. No other player has scored so many goals in the first 17 games of the season in Wolfsburg's Bundesliga history: not Edin Dzeko, nor Grafite, nor Mario Mandzucic, nor Mario Gomez. "Those are nice facts and that's always good," said the striker about his goals return. Weghorst has scored in each of the last three Bundesliga matches – and at Mainz, the almost two-metre tall striker demonstrated he does not rely totally on strength. He scored a technically impressive goal by lobbing the Mainz 05 keeper Zentner to make it 2-0. Weghorst scored the first of what is now 45 goals in the Bundesliga against Bayer 04 in September 2018. He has not been able to add to that in the following four appearances against the Black and Reds.


If the Werkself defence can keep a grip on the Dutchman then the chances for the Bosz team are not bad. VfL are very dependent on their goal-getter. And: Despite having the outstanding goalscorer, VfL have scored the fewest goals of all the teams in the top half of the table. VfL have again and again failed to find another forward in place of the tall target man. And after the game at Mainz recently, Glasner admitted: “It was not a great display of football."


Being knocked out in the Europa League qualifying round has been the only setback in a good season for VfL Wolfsburg to date. It's obvious that the team from Lower Saxony are looking to put things right in 2021 and, if possible, qualify directly for the group stage in the Europa League. To do that this term, they probably need to finish fifth – and the Wolves are definitely capable of achieving that finish at the end of the season if the team continues to be so consistent.

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