Wolfsburg take on Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
Neither side have managed to bag a win in their opening two matches, with both teams heading into the weekend’s encounter with a point apiece.
After Joshua Guilavogui rescued a point on the opening matchday in a 2-2 draw against newly-promoted Werder Bremen, Niko Kovac would have been realistic about his side’s slim chance of adding to their points tally away to Bayern Munich last Sunday.
Having managed them to a league title in 2018-19, the Croatian knows first-hand the quality that the reigning champions possess, especially with Sadio Mane adding to Julian Nagelsmann‘s tactical flexibility to great success in the opening weeks of the campaign.
Ultimately, Kovac would have been pleased to see his side reduce the Bavarians to a 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena, with Koen Casteels making six saves across the 90 minutes. Unfortunately he was unable to prevent Jamal Musiala and Thomas Muller from providing their side with a comfortable lead at half time.
Die Wolfe had their moments but ultimately lacked bite, with Lukas Nmecha seemingly leaving his shooting boots at home despite having scored against Bremen, while some great last-ditch defending by Alphonso Davies thwarted Patrick Wimmer in the early exchanges.
Still, there were plenty of positives for Kovac to take, but the 50-year-old will be desperate to ensure that another newly-promoted side in the shape of Schalke do not leave the Volkswagen Arena with any points on Saturday.
Back in front of their home fans in a Bundesliga match for the first time in 15 months, Schalke gained a creditable 2-2 draw against in-form Borussia Monchengladbach.
Rodrigo Zalazar‘s driving run and strike from 25 yards fired Schalke ahead before half time, but Die Fohlen pushed hard for an equaliser thereafter, with their pressure finally paying as Marcus Thuram‘s cheeky backheel accurately found Jonas Hofmann, who prodded past Alexander Schwolow to level the proceedings.
Schwolow then inexplicably fumbled from a cross for the second successive week, allowing Thuram to swivel and guide the ball home into an empty net to cause panic among Schalke’s ranks.
However, with time running out and Frank Kramer staring down the barrel at another defeat, Patrick Hermann gifted the hosts a penalty by needlessly handling the ball in injury time. Marius Bulter, who scored a consolation goal on the opening day at FC Koln, confidently dispatched his penalty to claim a precious point for his side.
Die Konigsblauen will head to Monchengladbach mightily relieved that they are off the mark in terms of points, and may even play with more freedom and confidence as a result.
Wolfsburg are likely to remain without forwards Yannick Gerhardt (ligament) and Jonas Wind (hamstring), with Kovac possibly considering changes in the final third.
Having understandably played three central midfielders away to Bayern, the former Croatia defender may be tempted to start Max Kruse having only utilised the mercurial forward from the bench in his first two league games in charge.
That could mean that Guilavogui returns to the bench, while Josip Brekalo may replace Omar Marmoush to provide natural width on one flank.
Schalke, meanwhile, will travel without Dominick Drexler, who is still suspended after his straight red card against his former club Koln on matchday one, while Amine Harit remains unavailable for selection as he nears an exit from the club.
Kramer may look to tighten things up by bringing club captain Danny Latza into the midfield, with Simon Terrode potentially dropping to the bench.
Terrode holds the record as 2. Bundesliga’s record goalscorer with 172 goals, but the 34-year-old has never proven himself at this level and Bulter’s industry may be preferred in a withdrawn striking role away from home, especially having bagged two goals in two games.
Having made two big errors leading to goals in the opening two matches, Schwolow could find himself replaced by the experienced Ralf Fahrmann in goal.
Wolfsburg possible starting lineup:
Casteels; Baku, Bornauw, Lacroix, Van de Ven; Arnold, Svanberg; Kruse, Wimmer, Brekalo; Nmecha
Schalke 04 possible starting lineup:
Fahrmann; Brunner, Thiaw, Yoshida, Ouwejan; Kral, Krauß, Latza; Zalazar, Bulter, Mohr