If there's any game that VfL Wolfsburg were dreading for, then it was this. The men from Lower Saxony will play host to Torsten Lieberknecht's Bundesliga hopefuls Eintracht Braunschweig in the first leg of the relegation play-off clash at the Volkswagen Arena on Thursday evening.
The late, painful defeat at the hands of Hamburger SV this past week had condemned Andries Jonker's men in green to the 16th placed in the Bundesliga table, as a late Gian-Luca Waldschmidt strike had send many Die Wolves' heads crashing to the floor.
Braunschweing, on the other hand, had guaranteed themselves a much needed play-off spot with a 2-1 win over Karslruher SC at the weekend. Julius Biada's 34th minute strike proved to be the difference maker, as the Die Lowen look to seal a comeback to the Bundesliga, three years after finishing at the bottom of the first division charts.
Jonker seeks survival
Andries Jonker would probably be feeling that he doesn't deserve to play the game, after having joined the club as the boss as recently as late February. The former Arsenal academy manager did win four games on joining the Volkswagen Arena based club, but it hasn't been enough to keep the side afloat. Despite that, the German will head into the game determined to keep the side in the league and build on from the next season.
Wolfsburg have won only one game in their five outings, with all three points coming from the trip to the Commerzbank Arena, that saw Daniel Didavi and Mario Gomez hand them a 2-0 win over Niko Kovac's men. The games following that resulted in a draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach and the loss to Hamburg.
Excessive goalscoring burden on Mario Gomez has made sure that Wolfsburg have suffered in the goalscoring department. Due to that, they have scored the third least amount of goals this season- 34. The German forward has scored 16 out of them. Goals are something that they would need, if they want to keep themselves in the division.
Defensively, Wolfsburg have been miles better, at least when compared to their form on the attacking front. They have the 12th best defense in the Bundesliga, letting in 52 goals. A slight improvement in this aspect and more goals could have kept them away from the relegation zone, if not just the regular managerial changes.
Braunschweig look to achieve season targets
When the season kicked off, many had tipped Braunschweig to finish inside the upper reaches of the league. Stuttgart and Hannover, who had gone down last season, have finished first and second and Lieberknecht's men will be happy to finish as high as third. A slip-up on Thursday can well force them to start off from the bottom again next season.
The shocking 6-0 loss at the hands of the previously relegation threatened Arminia Bielefeld had increased doubts about whether they will finish inside the top three, but the win over Karlsruher ensured the spot. Barring the instance of having let in six at the Bielefelder Alm, Braunschweig haven't lost a single game in the previous five games, but the 1-0 loss to Hannover can make one doubt whether they are capable of playing in the Bundesliga again.
The last time they earned promotion back in 2013, the Lions had Domi Kumbela to thank for his 19-goal heroics to propel the club back to the first-division. And the DR Congo forward has played an ever vital role in getting them to third this time around as well. The 33-year-old shows no signs of aging, scoring 13 times in the league, followed by Christoffer Nyman, who has scored 11 times.