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Match Preview: Wolfsburg vs. Manchester United

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Only a win over Wolfsburg on Tuesday will guarantee Manchester United's safe passage into the Champions League knockouts.

Martin Rose/Getty Images

Manchester United haven't looked like beating anyone of late, which makes the task they face in the Champions League on Tuesday a rather daunting one: beat group-leading Wolfsburg on their own patch or risk elimination and Europa League football. If United do win, they'd go through as group winners; if they don't, and their result is bettered by PSV at home to bottom side CSKA Moscow, it'll mean elimination. It's going to be a nailbiter, to say the least.

Team news

United still have a depressingly long injury list: in defence, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo will all be missing; in midfield United will be without Wayne Rooney, Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin; while Paddy McNair is in doubt.

Meanwhile, Wolfsburg defender Felipe Lopes will miss out as he builds up fitness after a layoff, and defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo faces a late fitness test.

Tactics

The good news is Wolfsburg haven't been in the best of form in recent times. They've only won three of their last seven in all competitions, though Dieter Hecking's side are still up in fifth place in the Bundesliga. Given that they're also top of the Champions League group, they're clearly doing something right. However, United unfortunately can't bank on them easing up, as their progression isn't yet guaranteed either.

They're a team that usually have plenty of the ball, and usually work their chances down the flanks. They have plenty of talent in the attacking midfield zone, with wingers André Schürrle and Daniel Caligiuri both quick and skilful, and excellent in one-on-one situations. That only makes it all the more worrying that United will likely head into this game with Ashley Young on one side of the defence and a woefully out-of-form Matteo Darmian on the other. Max Kruse and Julian Draxler can both also play out on the flanks for Wolfsburg when needed, though they're less traditional wingers and more wide playmakers.

Spearheading the Germans' attack will be Dutch striker Bas Dost. He's sprung to prominence over the last couple of season with some very strong performances up front, and he's already netted seven times in the Bundesliga so far this season. At nearly two metres tall he's an extremely terrifying prospect for opposition defences, and it makes it all the more important that United's full-backs have great games against Wolfsburg's wide-men.

United are usually pretty good at stopping opponents from counter-attacking quickly, but Wolfsburg's dependence on quick wing-play only makes it all the more important that Louis van Gaal's side nail their pressing. French midfielder Josuha Guilavogui is more noted for his defensive work in the centre of the park, but he'll look to trigger quick counters with direct passes, alongside the more dynamic youngster Max Arnold. It's a shame Michael Carrick can't run, isn't it?

Predicted lineups

Wolfsburg (4-4-2): Diego Benaglio; Marcel Schäfer, Dante, Naldo, Christian Träsch; Julian Draxler, Maximilian Arnold, Joshua Guilavogui, André Schürrle; Bas Dost, Max Kruse.

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Ashley Young, Daley Blind, Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian; Michael Carrick, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Jesse Lingard, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata; Anthony Martial.