Dutch star Wout Weghorst will need to be closely watched by Bayern Munich when Wolfsburg host the champions on Saturday. - © IMAGO / Poolfoto
Dutch star Wout Weghorst will need to be closely watched by Bayern Munich when Wolfsburg host the champions on Saturday. - © IMAGO / Poolfoto
bundesliga

The Wolves at Bayern's door: 5 ways Wolfsburg can beat Bayern Munich on Saturday

With six games to go, Bayern Munich can edge towards another Bundesliga title with victory at Wolfsburg on Saturday. This year more than most, however, the third-placed home side have the potential to cause an upset.

Recent history doesn't suggest that Bayern will have much trouble this weekend. The champions have come out on top in their last six matches against the Wolves, are unbeaten in 11 Bundesliga matches between the teams, and have won on their last six visits to Wolfsburg.

Bayern have often romped to victory as well. There was a 4-0 away win on the final day of last season, both a 5-0 and 5-1 success, as well as two 6-0 thrashings. In total Wolfsburg have managed only four wins in 54 games across all competitions against Hansi Flick's team.

This season, though, Bayern had to come from behind to win 2-1 in Munich on Matchday 12. And there are reasons to believe the Wolves will be licking their lips ahead of Saturday's rematch at the Volkswagen Arena.

1) No Lewandowski

Unless he makes a miraculous recovery, Robert Lewandowski will not feature for Bayern this weekend. News that the reigning world player of the year and five-time Bundesliga top goalscorer is unavailable would boost any opponent, but for Wolfsburg it is a welcome relief.

The Poland captain got both goals in the reverse fixture, after all, and one of his most famous achievements came against the Wolves. Bayern were trailing 1-0 at home in September 2015 when Lewandowski went into overdrive - scoring five goals in just nine minutes.

Watch: Lewandowski's FIVE goals in NINE minutes!

Bayern's leading light has netted 35 times in 25 league games this season, and Wolfsburg are his favourite victim. Lewandowski has scored 24 career goals against the 2008/09 German champions, chipping in with eight assists for good measure.

2) Deadly Dutchman

If Lewandowski isn't available, then the Wolves' predator-in-chief can perhaps sink his teeth into a wounded animal. Wout Weghorst has scored 51 goals across three Bundesliga seasons for Oliver Glasner's home side, with 18 of them coming this season and four of them in his last five matches.

A threat on the ground and in the air, the 6'5" forward has set Wolfsburg on the hunt for a first top-four placing since Kevin De Bruyne inspired them to a runner-up finish in 2014/15.

However, it's not just the quantity of goals that Weghorst has scored that has been important. Seven of his strikes marked the first time his team had found the net in a game, three were late equalisers and two were late winners. The 28-year-old former AZ striker has also netted twice from the penalty spot this season.

Watch: Weghorst's Top 5 goals

"He's the most dangerous player in front of goal that I've ever coached - at least as head coach," Wolfsburg boss Glasner has said.

Fourth on the scoring charts behind Lewandowski, Andre Silva and Erling Haaland, the attention Weghorst draws also allows his teammates to benefit.

"With Wout, you saw against Cologne the passion that he showed to get the ball to Josip [Brekalo] and set up the goal," Glasner said after the Netherlands international got one of his team-high seven assists for the season in Wolfsburg's last home match.

Directly involved in 25 Bundesliga goals this season, Weghorst has contributed to over 50 percent of Wolfsburg's tally of 49.

"A top-four finish is that way!" – Wolfsburg head coach Oliver Glasner and midfielder Xaver Schlager will hope to get a rare win over Bayern Munich to stay third in the Bundesliga. - Darius Simka via www.imago-images.de/imago images/regios24

3) High-intensity pack

Last season was Glasner's first in charge of the 2015 DFB Cup winners, and he led Wolfsburg to a creditable seventh-placed finish. He favours a high-energy style that also brought him success with LASK in his native Austria.

"I think we play very intense football, going forward as well as in defence," Wolfsburg midfielder Maximilian Arnold told bundesliga.com recently.

Heading into a key showdown with Bayern, Wolfsburg lead the league for both sprints (7,097) and intensive runs (21,751) and are second to VfB Stuttgart for duels won (3,258). It's a collective effort for the Wolves, with everyone working for the benefit of the pack.

Xaver Schlager is fifth in the Bundesliga for duels won (344), and the Austrian will have to be at his combative best against Bayern in the absence of suspended midfield partner Arnold. His side's attitude, however, is unlikely to change.

Watch: Schlager and Wolfsburg under the tactical microscope

"I've always stressed that we go into every game to win - whether it's home or away, whether it's against a promoted team or the reigning Champions League winners," Glasner said earlier this season. "That defines us. It might not come off all the time, but the approach is always clear: we play to win."

With 13 clean sheets and only 26 goals conceded, Wolfsburg - whose USA defender John Brooks is an important player - have the second-best defensive record in the league.

They did, however, let in three for the first time this season while losing a seven-goal thriller at Eintracht Frankfurt last week. Glasner lamented some uncharacteristic defensive errors after that game but the attacking statistics - Wolfsburg had 20 shots to Eintracht's nine - indicate that not a lot is wrong.

"Frankfurt were clinical and scored from almost every chance," Glasner said. "That's why it's a disappointing defeat but our performance - especially going forward - gives me confidence for our upcoming matches."

USA centre-back John Brooks (r.) is one major reason why Wolfsburg are scrapping with Justin Kluivert (l.) and RB Leipzig to finish in the top four along with Bayern Munich. - Sven Sonntag via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Picture Point LE

4) Brilliant Baku  

Ridle Baku was undoubtedly a key summer signing for Wolfsburg. Most regularly used of late in an attacking role on the right flank in Glasner's 4-2-3-1 formation, he has already proven his worth to the wolf pack.

Having joined on a five-year deal from Mainz, he soon lived up to his billing for being "hungry for success". Baku's early season form earned him a first cap for Germany in November last year, and he clearly has the talent to cause Bayern left-back Alphonso Davies some issues.

While he is unlikely to beat the Canadian's league-record top speed, he could test him for staying power. Baku, who turned 23 earlier this month, leads the Bundesliga this season for both sprints (913) and intensive runs (2,379), and he is also among the top 30 players for duels won.

Ridle Baku has been capped by Germany - while still starring for the U21 team - since moving from Mainz to Wolfsburg. - Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Drawing on past experience as both a right-back and a defensive midfielder, the Mainz native is developing a great all-round game. It's as an attacking player, though, that he should worry Bayern on Saturday.

Following his opener against Frankfurt - and a later assist - Baku now has an impressive six goals and four assists in 26 league appearances for Wolfsburg. Four of his goals have come in 2021.

With a double last month against Hungary to help Germany U21s to the quarter-finals of the European Championship, Baku is - according to Glasner - "one of the heroes" of his club and international teams. The Wolfsburg head coach believes there is plenty more to come from a player on the up.

"The curve is definitely pointing in the right direction," Glasner said. "He is such a modest but ambitious guy, so I have no doubt that he'll continue to improve in the coming years."

5) Home comforts

Wolfsburg have only suffered four league defeats this season, and the fact the club made no winter signings shows how solid their squad has been.

"A key point is definitely the fact that there's greater continuity at the club in general, and that the spine of the team has been playing together for a long time now," midfielder Yannick Gerhardt told the club website earlier this month.

The Wolves have already surpassed their points tally from 2018/19, when they finished sixth in the German top flight. Going for the kill at home has been vital and they are - along with Bayern and Eintracht - one of only three teams yet to lose on their own patch this season.

Wolfsburg have made their Volkswagen Arena a fortress even without fans this season, winning nine and drawing four of their Bundesliga matches there ahead of the visit of Bayern Munich. - DFL/Getty Images/Oliver Hardt

They have won their last three league matches at the Volkswagen Arena and have gone a club record five games without conceding a goal there.

Throw in the fact that all three of Bayern's league defeats this season have come on the road and you can understand why Glasner feels his team should be full of energy in the hunt for a UEFA Champions League place.

"The best thing you can have as a sportsperson is to go into the crunch time still having a lot you can win," he said on Thursday.

Not that he is expecting victory to come easily against eight-in-row German champions Bayern.

"If we perform at our best, I think we can win," Glasner said. "If not, it will be difficult."

Mark Rodden