Wolfsburg visit Gent revitalised after first win in 7 games

BERLIN • Wolfsburg head to Belgian league side Gent for today's Champions League last-16, first-leg tie, with renewed confidence after Julian Draxler helped break their six-match winless streak.

German Cup holders Wolfsburg powered their way into the knockout stages by beating Manchester United 3-2 last December to condemn the Red Devils to the Europa League.

But the Germans failed to win any of their next five games until Draxler scored in Saturday's 2-0 win over Ingolstadt to stay eighth in the Bundesliga.

Having been booed when losing at Schalke the week before, Wolfsburg's victory gave the side much-needed confidence ahead of the trip to Belgium.

"The fans were right to criticise us," said the German playmaker, who cost Wolfsburg €35 million (S$54.9 million) from Schalke last August. "We hadn't shown for a while what we could do. We've drawn a line under things now and got the three points we needed."

But Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking has warned his side to expect a much tougher test at Gent than Ingolstadt provided.

"We mustn't make so many mistakes," said Hecking as 124 of his side's 377 passes went astray last Saturday. "We need more ball possession to make the opponents chase after us."

Gent's 0-1 loss to title rivals Brugge cost them top spot in the Belgian league a week ago to leave them second. But they warmed up for Wolfsburg with a 2-0 win over Mouscron-Peruwelz last Friday thanks to goals from Mbark Boussoufa and Danijel Milicevic.

The Swiss midfielder is doubtful with an ankle injury, but Gent need their top scorer in Europe, with Milicevic having scored three goals in their six games.

Wolfsburg defender Naldo expects his team to endure a tough night at the Ghelamco Arena as Gent try to make the quarter-finals fo the Champions League at their first attempt.

"They're a team that won't lie down, a team that always look for goals," he said. "They took out some big teams along the way, like Valencia and Lyon. We have to be ready because they will come out fighting to make history in the Champions League."

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GENT V WOLFSBURG
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2016, with the headline 'Wolfsburg visit Gent revitalised after first win in 7 games'. Print Edition | Subscribe