Europa League

Can Wolfsburg overcome Shakhtar?

On Wednesday, Wolfsburg will play Shakhtar Donetsk in Kyiv. It will be the second leg of their last 16 tie, where they are 2-1 down after the game on the 12th March at the Volkswagen Arena. The first leg was an eventful game, with a missed penalty for both sides in the first half. Moraes put Shakhtar ahead in the 7th minute.  Shakhtar were awarded a penalty after an Arnold handball, but Casteels saved well diving to his left to prevent Kovalenko giving the Ukrainian side a two-goal lead. Wolfsburg were awarded their own penalty after a handball by Matviyenko, however Weghorst slipped and fired the ball over the bar from the spot.  Brooks equalised for the German side after half time. However, Antonio scored the winner via a rebound in the 73rd minute, after Casteels had pushed an Alan Patrick free kick onto the bar.

Wolfsburg end to the domestic season was a mixed one. They returned from the break because of the pandemic with 9 games left in the league. However, they only won 4 of their last 9 games. They suffered a 3-0 loss against Borussia Monchengladbach and a 4-0 defeat to league winners Bayern Munich. However, they won 4-1 away to Bayer Leverkusen and won 4-1 away to Schalke. The main goal was to achieve European football and they did that by clinching 7th place, meaning they have qualified for the qualifying rounds of the 2020/21 seasons edition of the Europa League.

Wolfsburg will face a tough task to advance to the next round. They know that a 1-0 win will not be enough due to the two away goals scored by Shakhtar. The aim for Wolfsburg will be to display some of that goal scoring prowess they displayed in the matches near the end of the season against Leverkusen and Schalke. However, for Wolfsburg they will face a side whose home form is excellent. Shakhtar have not lost a game in the domestic league in the 2019/20 season and have won fourteen of their sixteen home league games. This is even more impressive considering Shakhtar now have had to play at a different home venue since 2014 due to the Russian military occupation of the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. They played home games at the Arena Lviv between 2014 and 2016. Then from 2017 to 2020 they have played at the Metalist stadium and since May 2020 they have played at NSC Olimpiyskiy in Kyiv, and that is where the match with Wolfsburg will take place.

Shakhtar did lose at home in the group stages of the Champions League to Man City 3-0 and Atalanta 3-0. They drew 2-2 at home with Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb. However, they displayed their strong home form against Benfica in the previous round of the Europa League as they won the 1st leg 2-1 at home.

Also, when they returned to league action after the break due to the pandemic, they did not lose any of their final 9 games and in those 9 games they scored 21 goals and won 7 of the final 9 games and picked up 25 of the 27 points available in the final 9 games, which meant they won the Ukrainian Premier League with ease, they finished 23 points clear of second placed Dynamo Kyiv.

Though, Wolfsburg can take confidence from the win they have already got this season in the Ukraine. They beat Oleksandriya 1-0 in November in the Europa League group stages. However, they will need a better result than that to advance to the next round. Another statistic that will encourage the German side is that they have not lost away in the Europa League this season. As well as the 1-0 against Oleksandriya, the away games in the group stages saw them draw away to St Etienne 1-1 and to Gent 2-2. In the last 32, they won the away leg against Swedish side Malmo, with a 3-0 win, which helped them win 5-1 on aggregate to advance to the last 16.

The reward for the winners will be a place in the quarter finals and a tie against Swiss side Basel or the German side of Eintracht Frankfurt.

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