Wolfsburg - Second-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen will be hoping to bounce back from setbacks on both the domestic and European fronts when they travel to VfL Wolfsburg for Matchday 22's Saturday evening encounter (kick-off 17.30 GMT).
Die Werkself have suffered home defeats in the Bundesliga (to FC Schalke 04), the (1. FC Kaiserslautern) and the UEFA Champions League (to Paris Saint-Germain FC in midweek), and will therefore be keen to turn around their fortunes away to a Wolfsburg side boosted by two consecutive league victories.
Recognising the importance of his side's visit to the Volkswagen Arena, head coach Sami Hyypiä says his side will need the collective to function well in order for them to get back to winning ways. "In the situation we’re in, we need to stick together and give 100 per cent against VfL,” the 40-year-old Finn said. Right-back Roberto Hilbert echoed his coach's sentiments by underlining the importance of the game. “Everyone needs to be aware of how crucial this match is.”
Hoping a day off would help his players focus on the upcoming task against Wolfsburg, where Bayer will have to do without Emre Can (suspended) and the injured Eren Derdiyok, Hyypiä gave his players a day off on Thursday. "We used the break to approach this match with maximum commitment and concentration,” said the former Liverpool FC man, who is expecting a positive reaction on Saturday. “We shouldn't feel sorry for ourselves, but rather try and pick out the positives from the recent performances, which should give us confidence.”
Wolfsburg, meanwhile, will hope to pick up where they left off after their 2-1 victory at Hertha Berlin last Sunday, where Robin Knoche and Daniel Caligiuri inspired them to a second-half comeback. Coach Dieter Hecking warned, however, that despite their recent struggles, Bayer should not be taken lightly.
“I’m expecting Leverkusen to take a very different approach to this game," he said. "They are second in the table and have 43 points, which says a lot about their quality. Their squad is very strong, and we'll need to be at our best against them.”
’Don’t fear them’
Wolfsburg's recent run of positive results (three wins in a row in league and cup), coming after a topsy-turvy start to the Rückrunde, has not only helped their push for Europe but also boosted their confidence. "We don't fear them, or anyone. Our goal is to impose our game on Bayer 04."
There was positive news on the personnel front too for the Wolves, who will have centre-back Naldo back from suspension, while midfielder Jan Polak has also recovered from an ankle injury.
Wolfsburg: Benaglio - Ochs, Naldo, Knoche, Rodriguez - Luiz Gustavo, Medojevic - Arnold, de Bruyne, Perisic - Dost
Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Wollscheid, Toprak, Boenisch - L. Bender, Reinartz, Castro - Sam, Kießling, Brandt