BUNDESLIGA boff Lucas Swain-Britton (@LucasSwain95) takes an look at Thursday night's first leg Bundesliga promotion/relegation play-off between Wolfsburg and Holstein Kiel.
Wolfsburg v Holstein Kiel | Thursday 17th May 2018, 19:30 | BT Sport
The Bundesliga relegation/promotion play-off has become something of a novelty in the last 9 years for 2.Bundesliga clubs.
Aside from the year where Fortuna Düsseldorf defeated Hertha Berlin in a thrilling competition across two legs, the gulf between the divisions has been slowly growing, and in my years of watching German football I think this is the biggest gap I've seen yet.
Wolfsburg have one of the best budgets in the Bundesliga and Holstein Kiel have recently been in a dispute with the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) to see whether their stadium would be fit to to host the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich – I think that just about puts into perspective of the difference in stature between the clubs.
For those who are new to German football and its fan culture, the majority of its supporters tend to dislike clubs without traditional backgrounds. Wolfsburg, who are a industrial club created initially for the workers of Volkswagen, are one of these teams, so many traditionalists would love to see them drop a division.
The Volkswagen factory quite literally put this city on the map and it's up to Bruno Labbadia to see whether he can keep the football team in the division. A quick glance at the respective home and away form of both teams, it would be simple to draw the conclusion Kiel stand a good chance here.
However, I see no such fortune for the 2.Bundesliga club in the opening leg of this play-off.
It may seem harsh to write off Kiel so easily – who've had a fantastic season by their standards, not to mention they've been the top scorers in the division thanks to Marvin Ducksch notching no less than 18 goals and Dominick Drexler bagging 12. But I think the gulf is too big here and Wolfsburg have too much on the line.
The betting angle
History truly favours the first division clubs in these ties, which may bring about the question in Germany as to whether this fixture is worth the sum of its parts.
Whilst it's a great watch, it doesn't particularly offer a real and significant chance for the third-placed side to earn promotion. Given how poor Hamburg have been in the last few seasons prior to this one, and the fact they've managed to survive in the play-offs, it speaks volumes about the integrity of the encounter.
The price for Wolfsburg (26/25 Marathon) in this fixture is far too big. Whilst the Wolves aren't exactly a fleeting attacking side and Kiel possess quality going forward, Labbadia's men should be expecting no less than a win unless they wish to truly flirt with danger.
As far as I'm concerned Wolfsburg will be a Bundesliga club next season, but if my prediction in this fixture turns out to be wrong, then we're in for a real treat come the second leg.
Wolfsburg v Holstein Kiel – Wolfsburg to win (26/25 Marathon)