VfL Wolfsburg will have the opportunity to secure their qualification in the UEFA Champions League for next season as they take on RB Leipzig on Sunday.
Prior to the start of MD33, Wolfsburg’s Sunday afternoon clash against RB Leipzig was going to be one of their most important ones in the 2020/21 campaign as a defeat could have squashed their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next season.
However, Eintracht Frankfurt’s shock defeat to bottom club FC Schalke on Saturday has changed the complexion of the top four race in the Bundesliga. The Eagles, in fact, could be knocked out of the fight should Borussia Dortmund and indeed, VfL Wolfsburg win their respective Sunday games against 1.FSV Mainz and RB Leipzig respectively.
Wolfsburg have pretty much sealed their place in the top four since they do have a three-point lead over Frankfurt, and most importantly, a healthy +10 GD advantage. And, a point against Leipzig will be enough to mathematically ensure their qualification.
Die Roten Bullen, on the other hand, are desperate to get back to winning ways after suffering back-to-back defeats at the hands of Borussia Dortmund, with the most recent one coming in the DFB Pokal finale this midweek. It was the second time they had failed to secure the coveted trophy despite reaching the final.
Julian Nagelsmann’s men don’t have much to play for in the Bundesliga, although for the coach himself, it will be his final game in the Red Bull Arena before he joins Bayern Munich next season. The 33-year-old, therefore, will be determined to end his spell with Leipzig on a positive note, and here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their crucial encounter in the Bundesliga this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Nicht irgendein Stadion – nicht irgendein Ort.
Unsere Arena – unser Wohnzimmer. ✨🏟
— Die Roten Bullen (@DieRotenBullen) May 15, 2021
Julian Nagelsmann was heavily criticised for his team selection in the Pokal defeat to Borussia Dortmund. His gamble with Hee-chan Hwang, up against Mats Hummels did not work at all.
Leipzig, therefore, are likely to revert to the lone striker upfront, with Emil Forsberg set to spearhead the attack, with support from Christopher Nkunku and the in-form Dani Olmo.
There could be changes even in midfield, with Konrad Laimer hoping for a start, ahead of Kevin Kampl. The Austrian international has been unlucky with injuries this season, but could operate in the double-pivot alongside Marcel Sabitzer, offering control in the middle of the park.
Angelino, meanwhile, was not included in the squad against Borussia Dortmund due to disciplinary or sporting reasons. His services, though, could be required, especially considering how Amadou Haidara struggled in the last game.
Nordi Mukiele, too, has not been able to properly replace the injured Tyler Adams. Nagelsmann, unfortunately, does not have any other options, so he may continue at right wing-back, occasionally offering the defensive support for the back three of Lukas Klostermann, Willi Orban and Dayot Upamecano, who is bracing himself for his final game at the Red Bull Arena, for RB Leipzig.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gulacsi; Klostermann, Upamecano, Orban; Mukiele, Sabitzer, Laimer, Angelino; Olmo, Nkunku; Forsberg
Josip Brekalo made a huge impact upon his return to the starting eleven, in the last game against Union Berlin. He scored a sensational hat-trick, becoming a favourite to start in this one, alongside Yannick Gerhardt and Ridle Baku in Wolfsburg’s creative trifecta.
Die Wolfsspuren am Donnerstag:
❎ Vorbereitung auf Leipzig
❎ WölfiClub traf Yannick Gerhardt
❎ Spezialtrainings mit der VfL-Fußballschule
— VfL Wolfsburg (@VfL_Wolfsburg) May 13, 2021
These three players should play a vital role in offering the supply for main man Wout Weghorst, who has recently been selected in Netherlands’ provisional squad for the Euros. The tall forward will be hoping to extend on his excellent scoring tally against Leipzig this weekend.
Oliver Glasner’s midfield unit picks itself, with Xaver Schlager and Maximilian Arnold operating in the double-pivot of a 4-2-3-1. Both these midfielders are very potent from long-range and are more than capable of testing Gulacsi. Arnold, meanwhile, is also very proficient from set-pieces.
His crosses, therefore, could be a source of creativity for Weghorst, although Wolfsburg have more target men, in the form of their two central defenders in Maxence Lacroix and John Anthony Brooks.
This little combination of youthful exuberance and experience has been hugely successful for the Wolves this season. However, they will face a rather difficult task of keeping Leipzig quiet, meaning they could require additional defensive contribution from the full-back duo of Kevin Mbabu and Paulo Otavio, who usually like to get forward.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Casteels; Mbabu, Lacroix, Brooks, Otavio; Schlager, Arnold; Baku, Gerhardt, Brekalo; Weghorst
- A league-leading 16 different players have scored for Leipzig in the Bundesliga this season, with Emil Forsberg and Marcel Sabitzer top of the club charts on seven apiece.
- RB Leipzig have conceded as many defeats in six league games as in their previous 26 (three).
- Die Roten Bullen drew the reverse fixture, before running out 2-0 winners in the DFB Cup quarter-finals to extend their unbeaten streak against Wolfsburg to seven competitive matches.
- Wout Weghorst missed a penalty in the cup game but is still enjoying career-best scoring form with 25 goals in all competitions, including 20 in the Bundesliga.
- Wolfsburg No.1 Koen Casteels has kept the second-highest number of clean sheets in the Bundesliga this season (14), after Leipzig’s Peter Gulacsi (15).
Player to Watch
Dayot Upamecano has a point to prove this weekend after enduring a difficult few games against Dortmund. Especially in the recent DFB Pokal final, the RB Leipzig centre-back was completely floored by Erling Haaland, with the defender clearly losing physical duels against the feisty Norwegian centre-forward.
It didn’t bode well for Upamecano’s image as a sturdy defender, so the youngster will be hoping to bounce back with an improved display against Wolfsburg. It will be interesting to see whether or not he can outshine another talented defender from Wolfsburg in Lacroix, who has been linked with a move to Dortmund. So we might witness a little Der Klassiker in this fascinating encounter this weekend.
RB Leipzig 2-1 VfL Wolfsburg
VfL Wolfsburg have a dismal record against the top Bundesliga clubs and that is likely to continue against a Leipzig team that is desperate to return to winning ways after a disappointing run of form. It will be a challenge for Nagelsmann to pick his team up after suffering a defeat in the Cup final, but with changes in personnel, Die Roten Bullen might just return to their groove.