After losing their opening match of the group stage, Manchester United can get their Champions League campaign back on track by defeating Wolfsburg at Old Trafford on Wednesday (19:45 BST live on BT Sport Europe).
United secured their return to the Champions League after a year’s absence by finishing fourth in the Premier League last season. They have a good start to the new season and sit top of the league table with 16 points from five wins, one draw and a single defeat.
Louis van Gaal’s men were comfortable 3-0 winners at home to Sunderland on Saturday. They dominated possession and created a good number of high-quality opportunities whilst limiting their visitors to very few. Memphis Depay (pictured) put them ahead just before the interval before second-half goals from Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata sealed the three points.
It was another strong defensive performance from Man Utd, whose early-season matches have been characterised by their ability to prevent opponents from creating chances. The introduction of two defensive midfielders in front of the back four has given them a solid base, while their ability to keep possession provides an additional layer of protection.
Best Match Betting Odds
4/5 Man Utd (Bet365, Coral, BetVictor, Betfred, Ladbrokes, William Hill, Betfair Sportsbook)
14/5 Draw (BetVictor, Unibet, Stan James)
4/1 Wolfsburg (Bet365, Betfred, Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook)
United struggled for goals themselves during the early weeks of the campaign but three goals in each of their last three league matches suggests that they are starting to find their way. The arrivals of Depay and Anthony Martial have certainly added some extra pace and verve to a side that had looked previously looked a little flat and short of ideas up front.
Van Gaal will definitely be without the injured Luke Shaw (broken leg) for this match, while Marcos Rojo (hamstring) and Patrick McNair (knock) are also likely to miss out.
Wolfsburg qualified for the Champions League for only the second time in their history by finishing second in the Bundesliga last season. Early into the new campaign, they are fourth in the table with 12 points from three wins, three draws and a defeat.
Dieter Hecking’s side were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Hannover 96 on Saturday. They comfortably out-possessed and out-shot their visitors and created the marginally better chances of the match but were unable to convert their superiority into three points. Bas Dost put them ahead just before half-time only for Hannover to equalise on the hour mark.
Wolfsburg’s excellent second place finish and success in the German Cup last season were the result of an open and attacking style of play. They scored just eight goals less than eventual champions Bayern Munich over of the course of the campaign but paid for their positive approach at the other end of the pitch, conceding over a goal per match on average.
Hecking does, however, appear to have favoured a more balanced approach so far this season. Aside from their 5-1 capitulation away to Bayern, Wolfsburg have otherwise conceded just three times in seven league and Champions League matches. Their attack is still adjusting to the departure of Kevin de Bruyne, but they are still producing a solid output.
Hecking will be without the injured Felipe Lopes (metatarsal) and Robin Knoche (ankle) for this trip to Old Trafford, while Koen Casteels (toe), Luiz Gustavo (knee) and Vierinha (thigh) are doubtful.
Our Preview’s Man Utd v Wolfsburg Betting Tips
These two sides squared off during the group stage of the 2009/10 Champions League, with United winning both home (2-1) and away (3-1). Man Utd have a solid record of 14 wins, eight draws and seven defeats against German teams in European competition, while Wolfsburg have lost six and won just one of their seven matches against English opposition.
United lost 2-1 away to PSV Eindhoven in their group opener and need to take all three points in this match in order to avoid losing further ground in what looks likely to be an evenly-contested group. They should be solid enough at the back to repel their visitors’ attacks and will be confident of getting the goal or two necessary to secure victory.
Wolfsburg began the group stage with a good 1-0 victory at home to CSKA Moscow and will be more than content to keep things similarly tight. While they have only suffered one defeat so far this season, they are yet to put together two consecutive victories and currently look a little short of the level they achieved during the last campaign.
In the circumstances, our match preview’s verdict is that Man Utd are well-positioned to come away with all three points and our betting tips reflect that: