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Match Preview: Manchester United vs. Wolfsburg

After starting their Champions League campaign with a defeat to PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United could really do with a win over Wolfsburg on Wednesday.

Lars Baron/Getty Images

Manchester United started their Champions League campaign on a bum note, with a defeat to PSV Eindhoven compounded by a Luke Shaw broken leg. Hopefully things will improve in our second group game on Wednesday, when last season's Bundesliga runners-up Wolfsburg visit for the first time since the same stage of the same tournament six years ago (on that occasion, goals from Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick were enough to cancel out an Edin Džeko opener).

Wolfsburg have made a solid start to the Bundesliga campaign, and are up in fourth place after seven rounds. The good news is they lost their best player Kevin de Bruyne to Manchester City in the summer; the bad news is that Julian Draxler is a mighty fine replacement. They splashed the best part of £40 million on transfers over the summer, so don't write them off as purely a selling club. This game isn't going to be easy.

Team news

Luke Shaw is, of course, unavailable for United, while Marcos Rojo could join him on the sidelines with a hamstring problem and/or a Louis van Gaal problem.

For Wolfsburg, defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo is in doubt with a knee problem, while Robin Knoche, Vierinha and Koen Casteels are all injured.


Like pretty much every good team in the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg play a fast-paced game with plenty of wing-play. Though they're more than capable of dominating possession against weaker sides, we can probably guess that they're going to sit back and try and play a counter-attacking style at Old Trafford. But don't make the mistake of thinking that makes them any less of a threat: they smashed Bayern 4-1 in February in one of the most spectacular displays of reactive football we saw all season.

Without possession, they'll probably look to man-mark United in midfield and make it difficult for Louis van Gaal's passing game to be enacted. In possession, the focus will likely be on the rapid switch from defence to attack, with long-balls likely to be angled into the wide areas for either André Schürrle or Daniel Caligiuri to run onto.

From there, it shouldn't just be striker Bas Dost attempting to get onto the end of crosses, but midfielders Julian Draxler and Max Kruse. They're both goalscoring attacking midfielders, with Kruse's sheer power and physicality in particular making him a big threat with late runs from deep. Expect United's defensive midfield pairing to sit even deeper than normal to nullify this threat as best they can (and, given his physical weakness, let's hope Carrick doesn't start).

Predicted lineups

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Matteo Darmian, Daley Blind, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia; Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Memphis Depay, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata; Anthony Martial.

Wolfsburg (4-1-4-1): Diego Benaglio; Ricardo Rodríguez, Dante, Naldo, Christian Träsch; Joshua Guilavogui; André Schürrle, Max Kruse, Julian Draxler, Daniel Caligiuri; Bas Dost.