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Champions League Preview: Manchester United – VfL Wolfsburg


Kick-Off: Wednesday 30 September, 19.45 BST,
Old Trafford, Manchester

A thrilling contest is in prospect at Old Trafford on Wednesday night when two of Europe’s most potent attacking sides go head-to-head, as Champions League debutants Wolfsburg travel to Manchester United.

An England – Germany clash is rarely short of passion, and with both sides in the goals this season and looking to finish the group stage as top dog, there will be plenty to play for at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.

Both sides already have a win under their belts with Armin Veh's Wolves beginning their first season amongst Europe’s elite with a 3-1 win over CSKA Moscow. Whilst the game was perhaps more even than the score-line suggested, a Grafite hat-trick ensured the Germans were off to a flier.

The Red Devils, meanwhile, negotiated their tricky trip to Besiktas safely with a narrow 1-0 win over the Turks. A professional performance by the English champions ended with the perfect result and the chance to quieten the infamous Besiktas crowd.

Yet the visit of Wolfsburg will undoubtedly cause Sir Alex Ferguson’s men far more problems than their encounter with the toothless Turks.

The Wolves have a strike-force to fear and with the likes of Grafite, Edin Dzeko, Zvjezdan Misimovic and Obafemi Martins around there is no doubt that their attack will prove a handful for the United defence - which has looked far from secure at times this season.

Much may depend on how adventurous manager Veh is feeling. The 48-year-old, perhaps surprisingly, opted to field a cavalier line-up against CSKA Moscow, playing three attackers, a tactic that paid off.

However, one suspects, he is likely to be more conservative in Manchester as he looks to inflict United’s first home defeat in the competition for 21 matches, since AC Milan won 1-0 at Old Trafford in February 2005.

Home bankers

Despite the threat posed by the visitors, Manchester United will remain favourites to win the game, particularly due to their superb recent home record in the competition.

Although the Red Devils have arguably not hit top form this season they have passed all the tests posed to them, beating Arsenal and an in-form Tottenham Hotspur as well as securing a thrilling victory over neighbours Manchester City.

Paul Scholes also ensured that a trip to Turkey did not end in disappointment and with Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs in sparkling form for the Old Trafford outfit, they will expect to claim another home win.

Yet the English champions will surely have to tighten up defensively if they are to secure victory on Wednesday night. Goalkeeper Ben Foster is under scrutiny after some less than impressive displays, whilst Rio Ferdinand’s ongoing fitness problems remain a concern.

Whilst Wolfsburg warmed up for the game with a 4-2 win over Hannover, manager Ferguson will be aware that Wolfsburg have already leaked 14 goals in the league this season and will no doubt back his side to outscore their German counterparts.

FORM GUIDE

Manchester United


Sep 26: Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United
Sep 23: Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-1 Manchester United
Sep 20: Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City
Sep 15: Besiktas 0-1 Manchester United
Sep 12: Tottenham 1-3 Manchester United

Wolfsburg

Sep 26: Wolfsburg 4-2 Hannover
Sep 23: FC Koln 3-2 Wolfsburg
Sep 18: Schalke 1-2 Wolfsburg
Sep 15: Wolfsburg 3-1 CSKA Moscow
Sep 12: Wolfsburg 2-3 Leverkeusen

TEAM NEWS

Manchester United


Ferguson will undoubtedly shuffle his pack from the weekend win over Stoke City but he may have do without Park Ji Sung and Michael Owen, who are both doubts after missing training.

Possible Starting XI
: Foster, O’Shea, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Valencia, Fletcher, Anderson, Giggs, Berbatov, Rooney

Wolfsburg

Midfielder Josue is a doubt having picked up a knee injury against Hannover at the weekend.

Possible Starting XI: Benaglio, Riether, Madlung, Barzagli, Schafer, Josue, Gentner, Hasebe, Misimovic, Dzeko, Grafite

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Manchester United – Dimitar Berbatov


With Michael Owen and Danny Welbeck in the goals for United recently, the pressure has been growing on Dimitar Berbatov who answered some of his critics with a goal against Stoke at the weekend.

That should have helped the Bulgarian’s confidence and he may profit against Wolfsburg, a club he will know well from his five years in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkeusen.

Wolfsburg – Grafite

Wolfsburg’s Brazilian striker Grafite may be something of a late developer but he bagged a hat-trick on his Champions League debut against CSKA Moscow and is likely to be a handful once again.

The Bundesliga’s leading scorer last season with 28 goals, he already has two to his name in this campaign, and his impressive partnership with Dzeko will prove a real test for Vidic and co.

PREDICTION

This could just be a classic as two teams renowned for their firepower go head-to-head in a game that could do much to determine the winners of the group

Goals look inevitable and whilst the visitors will undoubtedly cause problems, Wolfsburg's lack of Champions League experience and United's home advantage favour Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.

Manchester United 3-2 Wolfsburg

Gill Clark, Goal.com UK