MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) tackles the Tuesday night Champions League last-16 encounter between Wolfsburg and Gent.
Wolfsburg v Gent | Tuesday 19.45 | BT Sport 2
Wolfsburg will be looking to seal their place in the Champions League quarter-finals for the very first time by completing qualification against Gent on Tuesday night at the Volkswagen Arena.
Coming into the first leg, I was feeling pretty bullish about my angle to oppose Wolfsburg. However, the tie looked all but over in Belgium as the Wolves raced into a three goal lead on the hour mark, scoring with three of their first shots-on-target.
Nevertheless, Dieter Hecking’s men have looked far from defensively secure this season and as they looked to protect their advantage instead of keeping their foot on Gent’s throat, they conspired to leak two late goals in a calamitous finale.
Despite those late lapses, the Germans remain heavy favourites to progress with Gent requiring at least two goals to keep the tie alive. And it would take a brave punter to back the seemingly impossible with the visitors chalked up at 16/1 pokes on Betfair to advance.
Wolfsburg appear over their winter blues. Having recorded just W1-D3-L4 before and after Christmas, the Wolves have bounced back into shape with W4-D1-L1 – runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich the only side to see off Hecking’s charges in that spell in a far from one-sided contest.
Wolfsburg forced Manuel Neuer into eight saves against Bayern – that’s the most saves the German number one has had to make in any Bundesliga game since signing from Schalke. And that fixture, along with a reverse to Dortmund, marks the hosts only two domestic defeats in 2015/16.
The Wolves cleared the group-phase with a 100% record and since the start of last season, the home side have returned a stunningly strong W24-D7-L2 record in Bundesliga and Champions League football at their Volkswagen Arena base. Across those 33 outings, Hecking’s troops have been silenced once.
One man who’s settled superbly into life at the Lower Saxony club is Kevin De Bruyne’s replacement Julian Draxler. Signed for an eye-popping £25m towards the end of the summer transfer window, the German international has burst into life in 2016, especially.
Draxler was Man of the Match in the first leg, scoring twice including one solo stunner, making it six goals from eight appearances this calendar year. Draxler has notched in back-to-back matches and should continue in his free role at the forefront of the home attack with Bas Dost still crocked.
I’ll back Draxler at 7/4 (Ladbrokes) to grab another goal here – he's been averaging just two shots-per-game this season and his new role should give him plenty of time and space to influence proceedings.
With Wolfsburg so strong at home – they're averaging 63% of the total shots-on-target at the Volkswagen Arena, I do expect them to progress with a W on Tuesday night.
Gent’s prospects in turning the tie on its head appear limited. The Belgian outfit have suffered defeats in four of their last five road trips, failing to score in three. The Buffalos have fallen to four losses in seven overall and recorded a solitary clean sheet in that spell and on Friday they were held by bottom-club OH Leuven.
Head coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck is still unable to call on the injured trio of Hannes Van Der Bruggen, Peter Olayinka and Gustav Wikheim so Gent are likely to line up in the same XI that loss the first leg. But I’m not willing to rule out the visitors from scoring here.
Vanhaezebrouck’s troops have struck in all seven of their Champions League games this season, six of which have seen winning Both Teams To Score bets. Indeed, five of Gent’s last six have produced winning Over 2.5 Goals selections and so finding a way to support goals looks the obvious solution.
So with Wolfsburg seeing Both Teams To Score bank in 20/33 (61%) home fixtures in Bundesliga and Champions League since the start of last season, I’ll stick it in alongside a home victory at hunky 11/5 (Bwin) quotes.
Finally, all three of Gent’s group games on their travels ended in 2-1 scorelines and I’ll get in on the act by having a throwaway quid on a repeat in Wolfsburg’s favour at 8/1 (BetVictor).
Wolfsburg v Gent – Wolfsburg to win and Both Teams To Score (11/5 Bwin)
Wolfsburg v Gent – Wolfsburg to win 2-1 (8/1 BetVictor)
Wolfsburg v Gent – Julian Draxler to score at anytime (7/4 Ladbrokes)
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