Match preview: Wolfsburg v Schalke

VfL Wolfsburg v FC Schalke 04, Bundesliga, March 13, 2009

Such is the current state of the Bundesliga, with undoubtedly the most exciting title chase in Europe, that Wolfsburg’s unlikely challenge at the top of the table is barely considered when the likes of Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin are also major challengers.

Felix Magath’s side who finished fifth last season are currently one place higher, just four points behind unlikely leaders Hertha Berlin and level on points with Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich.

It has been a mixed bag of results for the home side since the return of the winter break, they have won five out of six games in the Bundesliga which included impressive wins over Hertha Berlin and Hamburg. They did however get knocked out the UEFA Cup by Paris Saint Germain and were thrashed 5-2 in the DFB Pokal by Werder Bremen.

As a result, Wolfsburg can now concentrate on their Bundesliga games and with everything left to play for, including a Champions League place, they are well poised to claim their highest ever league position.

The undoubted reason for Wolfsburg’s impressive season is the form of their dangerous strike pairing of Edin Dzeko and Grafite (pictured) who have established “Die Wolfe” as the third best attack in the Bundesliga with 46 goals this season, 26 of which have come from the strike pairing. Wolfsburg also have the third best defensive record in the Bundesliga having conceded 28 goals.

Dzeko was a target for Portsmouth in the January transfer window and the 22-year-old is currently in a rich vein of form with seven goals in his past seven games. Grafite is also having a great time of things with 17 goals so far this campaign; he has though been slowed up by a recent knee injury.

Schalke come into this game following a fairly dramatic week. Former German international Andreas Muller was fired from his post as general manager on Monday due to the club’s poor form this season. Schalke are eighth in the Bundesliga and were eliminated from the Champions League in the qualification rounds.

Whilst Muller may have departed, most Schalke fans were hoping that coach Fred Rutten would also have been pushed out. They Royal Blues will though provide stiff opposition, having beaten Cologne last week and the likes of Jermaine Jones, Jefferson Farfan and Kevin Kuranyi will all be a threat to the Wolfsburg defence.

Despite their mid-table position, Schalke are only nine points behind leaders Hertha Berlin and a title challenge is not out of the question if they can put together some late form. For Wolfsburg this is a must-win game, next week they travel to Arminie Bielefeld before the host Bayern Munich in what will be another severe test of their title credentials.

101gg predicts: Wolfsburg 3 – Schalke 1 (18/1) & Wolfsburg to win having been behind (8/1).