We finally reached the midway point of the season with the Bundesliga looking to take a month break before the start of the Rückrunde. After the actions on Matchday 10, only four points separated fourth-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach and fifteen-placed Augsburg. Fast forward to last weekend and the Foals still maintained their league position but the point gap between them and fifteenth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt had grown to eighteen points. Lucien Favre’s side won six matches in a row before settling for a goalless draw at Mainz last week, stretching their unbeaten run to seven matches. Wolfsburg went one better in that aspect with a run of eight matches without defeat, also progressing to the quarter-finals of the DFB-Pokal, as the home defeat against lowly Braunschweig side served as a wakeup call for the underachievers.
Little in between
The last test for Wolfsburg before the winter break will see them travel to perfect-at-home Borussia Mönchengladbach in the only Sunday match of the weekend, with three points separating the two sides, a game which promises to put an end to one of the clubs’ sensational streak of results. Die Wölfe have collected thirteen points in their last four away league matches after failing to pick a point in any of their first four matches away from the Volkswagen Arena whereas ‘Gladbach hold a perfect home record with eight wins in as many matches.
They both possess one of the league’s most commanding defenses as have each conceded just seventeen goals in sixteen matches; only Bayern Munich (8) and Bayer Leverkusen (16) have allowed fewer goals. They both have excellent attacking formations, with ‘Gladbach boasting Max Kruse and Raffael as main attacking threats flanked by Patrick Herrmann and Juan Arango; while their counterparts will be relying on Max Arnold, who has raised his game with match-winning performances week-in, week-out. Playing alongside the youngest player to feature in the Bundesliga for Wolfsburg (Arnold), Ivica Olić has entered his final season at the club in inspired form by bagging seven goals in the league and a late match-winner against Ingolstadt 04 in round three of the cup tournament.
Between the posts
Marc-André ter Stegen is only ten matches short of making his hundredth appearance for ‘Gladbach in the age of just 21. He has kept a clean-sheet in four of the last six matches and his last-minute sensational save to deny Kevin-Prince Boateng secured a vital win against Schalke a fortnight ago.
His opposite number on Sunday, Switzerland international Diego Benaglio, arguably had his best performance of the season last week when he had to be on his best to stop Stuttgart from coming back to the game when his team was under pressure in the most part of the second half. The skipper made a string of world-class saves, which played their part in the hard-fought victory. Benaglio has been the undisputed number one choice at Wolfsburg since 2008 and has only missed three matches of the following seasons, being one of the pillars of the team and a key member of their 2008-2009 Bundesliga-winning squad.
The corresponding match last season produced a wonder striker from Venezuelan maestro Juan Arango. The left-footed winger scored a sublime volley on his way of helping the Foals to a routine win against a struggling Wolfsburg side. Arango has not missed a single game this season and has already scored four league goals in what might be his last season with the club, as his contract runs out in the summer.
Like Juan Arango, Brazilian star Diego may be in his last season with Wolfsburg. The former Werder Bremen playmaker is currently the talk of the media because of having to play in his unfavorable wide position and due to the fact that his contract at the club runs out at the end of the season. Nevertheless, the little wizard was at his best last weekend as his deflected free-kick against Stuttgart helped Wolfsburg to their sixth win in eight matches. Diego scored a goal and made two assists when Wolfsburg beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 at Volkswagen Arena in last season’s Matchday 31 fixture.
Lucien Favre has a full squad at his disposal, as has been the case for most part of this season, to extend their hundred percent home record into next year. The last time ‘Gladbach lost a home match dated back to the visit of Bayern Munich in Jupp Heynckes’ farewell match, in which the Bavarians came back from two goals down to have the last say 4-3.
Despite being without long-term absentees Christian Träsch and Portuguese winger Vieirinha, the guests will not have to deal with any other injury news ahead of the last match of the year. Dieter Hecking welcomed back South-Korean international Koo Ja-Cheol to the side against Stuttgart after being sidelined with an injury for the major part of the last couple of months.
A win for Wolfsburg will level them on points with their rivals on the day, who would still keep the position as they boast an inferior goal difference. If the Foals make it nine wins in nine, they will open a comfortable six-point lead for the coveted fourth Champions League berth. One way or another, there is a long way to go before the season end, as FC Schalke – who might introduce a new manager in the Winterpause – would also fancy their chances of finishing in the top four for yet another season.
‘Gladbach: ter Stegen, Jantschke, Stranzl, Korb, Wendt, Xhaka, Kramer, Hermann, Arango, Raffael, Kruse
Wolfsburg: Benaglio, Knoche, Naldo, Ochs, Rodriguez, Gustavo, Medojević, Diego, Arnold, Caligiuri, Olić
Header courtesy of facebook.com/vflwolfsburgfussball
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