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M. Pantović (65)

Can Bochum overcome struggling Wolfsburg on Sunday?

By Donie Nagle

VFL Wolfsburg will look to put an end to a run of seven defeats in a row when they visit VfL Bochum tomorrow.
Florian Kohfeldt.
Florian Kohfeldt.
A huge three points are on offer as Bochum and Wolfsburg clash at the Ruhrstadion on Sunday afternoon.

A quick viewing of the table confirms this. Both teams sit on 20 points, three points clear of Stuttgart in the relegation places. Wolfsburg came out on top on the opening weekend of the season, where a Wout Weghorst strike was enough to seal victory over their rivals. However, the visitors played almost the entire game with 10 men as Robert Tesche saw red early on.

It's been a very strange season so far for 'The Wolves'. Mark Van Bommel had made an excellent beginning as coach, with four straight wins to top the Bundesliga early on. But it all fell apart soon after. After an early Pokal exit, they went eight games without a win. There was still an element of surprise, however, when his sacking was announced after just 13 games.

New coach Florian Kohfeldt followed a similar pattern to his predecessor. After three straight wins, they have been going downhill fast. They ended 2021 with seven losses in a row, and Kohfeldt is now himself coming under pressure. An injury to topscorer Lukas Nmecha has also not helped, and he will also be missing in the weeks ahead with an ankle injury.

Despite this, Kohfeldt is confident of brighter days ahead for his side, when confidently declaring:

"I get the feeling that we've made thorough use of our preparation period and made the most of a combination of sessions on the pitch, video analysis and personal chats. You could already see that in the friendly against Paderborn (a 5-4 win), because the team played very well and were always alert. The real test will be on Sunday, when it's unlikely that every detail will come off. Even so, i expect a different performance compared to December. That's why I'm optimistic and convinced that we'll have enough to win in Bochum".

So has he been impressed by Bochum's solid start:

"I wasn't surprised by their good results in the first half of the season, because they managed to go above and beyond their capabilities, in almost all their games. They are ahead of us in the table, due to their better goal difference. That's why we have to play to our limits much more often in the second half of the season. If we do that, I'm also pretty confident that we'll finish ahead of them".

It's fair to say that Bochum would have accepted this position before the season began. Coach Thomas Reis has got his side playing with great solidity, and the vocal support of the fans has greatly helped too. They have been a welcome addition to the league after an 11-year absense. Former Wolfsburg striker Sebastian Polter has topscored with six goals, and they have added a new striker in the transfer window.

Former Hoffenheim frontman Jurgen Locadia is a welcome addition, and will no doubt get the fans excited. So is he looking forward to playing for his new team?

"Having had little playing time recently, i naturally hope that this will change at VFL", he told the Bochum website.

"I'm glad that the change to Bochum has come off. I'm curious about the team and I'm keen to get back playing in the Bundesliga" he stated.

Coach Reis certainly sounded excited about welcoming his new striker, when declaring:

"Jurgen Locadia is technically strong and can also drop to initiate an attack. He's strong at finishing and simply has a nose for goal. He has been perfectly integrated by the team. Now we have to get him to understand our philosophy and tactics as soon as possible".

Although playing well, 'Die Unabsteigbaren' will be disappointed with how they finished last year. Defeats at home to Union Berlin and away in Bielefeld put a slight dampener on their mood. But Reis is optimistic that those setbacks are now forgotten:

"It was important for the team to clear their heads for a few days. It was more a mental recovery than a physical one. We want to allow fewer scoring chances in the second half of the season for our opponents, and become more clinical upfront. Going forward, we want to be alert.

So is he worried about the threat posed by his opponents?

"Even if Wolfsburg have to replace a few players, they still have enormous quality in their squad. They are a very dangerous team, with a fast-switching game. They will certainly be brave and try to turn the tables on us, we want to prevent that", he declared.

The result on Sunday is certainly huge for the momentum of both sides. Defeat for either could spell an uncertain period and the dreaded threat of relegation could loom large.

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