Group B is as intense as any other group in this edition of the UEFA Champions League as Wolfsburg and Manchester United alongside PSV are vying for the two qualification spots in the final group stage encounter. Wolfsburg, the current leaders of the group, have never been to the knockout stages before and will do this year, with a draw while a win, would guarantee top spot. They will be looking to avenge their narrow 2-1 defeat when the sides met at Old Trafford and are certainly equipped to sting Manchester United on the counter. They will go into this game on the back of a rare defeat at home to Borussia Dortmund when Shinji Kagawa struck a late winner deep into stoppage time ending their mammoth 29 game unbeaten record at the Volkswagen Arena.
Manchester United are at crossroads this season. They sit fourth in the league yet only 3 points stand between them and the summit. An away win on Tuesday would guarantee qualification anything else would depend on what happens in Eindhoven where PSV will take on CSKA Moscow who are out of contention for qualification to the next stage. It’s arguably the most significant game for Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal which will indicate the amount of progress they have made under the Dutchman since he took over the reins from David Moyes. They make the trip to Germany following a drab 0-0, their fifth in nine games in all competitions.
Key duo Luiz Gustavo (back) and Ricardo Rodriguez (thigh) will have to be assessed prior to the game to see whether they would be available to make it to the starting eleven against United or not. Center back Robin Knoche is ruled out for the visit of Man United owing to an ankle injury.
For Louis Van Gaal, the injury problems are mounting as they have ever been. Besides the long term absentees in Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia, Manchester United will be without captain Wayne Rooney (unspecified), Ander Herrera (hamstring), Phil Jones (ankle), Marcos Rojo (shoulder) while youngster Jesse Lingard is doubtful to make it to the playing eleven on Tuesday.
Wolfsburg’s last home meeting with an English club was the 2-0 defeat against Everton FC in last season’s UEFA Europa League group stage.
United are still looking for their first away victory in Group B (D1 L1) but did win 4-0 at Club Brugge KV in the play-offs. Their overall away record against sides from Germany is W5 D4 L5.
Key Men Comparison
Ricardo Rodriguez (Vfl Wolfsburg) v Memphis Depay (Manchester United)
The influential left back has been a key figure in Dieter Hecking’s system that puts a lot of emphasis on full-backs who can be as good at the back as they are going forward. Rodriguez certainly falls into that category of elite full-backs who can also make a telling difference in set-pieces and spot kicks. The 23-year old is strong and has a powerful shot in him and could well prove to be the difference between Wolfsburg and Manchester United on Tuesday.
Memphis Depay has been in and out of the team now, clearly struggling to adapt to the rigors of the Premier League. His best performances have come in the Champions League, which is played at a relatively slower tempo which allows him to get into the game and make an impact like he did in the play-offs against Club Brugge KV. He should be fresh and fit for Tuesday having involved very little in the weekend and his link up with Anthony Martial will be key to United’s chances of guaranteeing their place in the last 16.
I don’t see Manchester United losing a big game simply because they rarely lose. I don’t see them winning either as scoring a goal seems to be a herculean task for Manchester United this season. A cagey draw with a lot of half-chances, methinks.
Vfl Wolfsburg 1-1 Manchester United