Wolfsburg’s injured Draxler in race to face Gent
Wolfsburg are waiting on the fitness of goal-scoring Germany midfielder Julian Draxler for Tuesday’s Champions League last 16, second-leg clash at home to Gent.
Draxler netted twice in Wolfsburg’s 3-2 win in Belgium in the first leg and scored in both of the German Cup holders’ Bundesliga wins over Hanover 96 and Borussia Moenchengladbach last week.
Having netted the opener in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Gladbach, Draxler picked up a knee ligament injury, but he is desperate to play and help Wolfsburg reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.
“It should be ok by Tuesday,” said the 22-year-old, who has made 16 appearances for Germany and was part of the 2014 World Cup-winning squad.
“I mean, on Tuesday we are playing in the Champions League. Your legs run by themselves on occasions like that.
“This is a great opportunity to make history for the club.”
Wolfsburg striker Max Kruse is also an injury concern as he struggles with a thigh injury after also scoring against Gladbach.
The Germans come into the return leg with the upper hand and fresh from back-to-back Bundesliga wins.
But having raced into a 3-0 lead at Gent three weeks ago, they left the door open as the Belgians roared back with goals by captain Sven Kums and Kalifa Coulibaly in the last 10 minutes to give them hope before the game at the Volkswagen Arena.
“We know that the thing hasn’t run its course yet, but if we play the way we did against Gladbach then we’ll reach the next round,” said Wolfsburg’s sporting director Klaus Allofs.
Coach Dieter Hecking just wants “90 minutes of hard work” from Wolfsburg.
“The tension is rising. We need to be wide awake from the outset,” he said.
“Our initial situation is good, but we are not through yet. We need a good performance.”
– ‘Extra special’ –
Belgian champions Gent’s form has gone off the boil in recent weeks, with just two wins in their last seven games in all competitions.
A 1-1 draw at home to struggling Leuven on Friday left them two points behind Pro League leaders Club Brugge in second place, but they remain right in contention for a second straight Belgian title and have everything to play for in Wolfsburg.
Like their hosts, they are in the last 16 of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time and both sides are eager to make more history.
“It would be extra special to reach the quarter-finals — that’s what we want to achieve,” said Wolfsburg’s Belgian goalkeeper Koen Casteels.
Gent midfielder Renato Neto says the Belgians need the same fighting spirit they showed in the first leg.
“We all need to believe together. We know how difficult it will be –- they’ll be playing at home with their fans, but we will go there with belief and try to get the best result,” said the 24-year-old Brazilian.
“We have to keep our heads up and try to do our best in the return match, try to score the goals we need and not concede.
“We’ve already made history in the competition, and now we have to hope for better.”