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Preview: Wolfsburg vs. Napoli

Sports Mole looks ahead to the Europa League quarter-final first leg between Wolfsburg and Napoli in Germany.

Wolfsburg and Napoli continue their Europa League campaigns on Thursday when they meet at the Volkswagen Arena in the first leg of the quarter-finals.

The Germans saw off Inter Milan in the last round, while the Italians defeated Dynamo Moscow to seal their progress.


Wolfsburg's head coach Dieter Hecking stands by the pitch prior to the German first division Bundesliga football match Wolfsburg vs Hamburg in Wolfsburg on November 29, 2013© Getty Images

Wolfsburg were dominant in the last round as they secured their passage into the last eight with a convincing 5-2 aggregate victory over Inter Milan.

The Germans did most of the damage with a 3-1 win in the first leg before earning a 2-1 triumph at San Siro on March 19.

Dieter Hecking's side have been in superb form as of late, putting together a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions that has included six wins.

While the Bundesliga title race looks to be over as Bayern Munich race towards glory, Wolfsburg remain the Bavarians' nearest challengers in the table. Three wins and a draw from their last four matches mean that they are 10 points behind Pep Guardiola's runaway leaders.

They head into Thursday's encounter on the back of a 2-0 win away at struggling Hamburger SV, with Josua Guilavogui and Daniel Caligiuri scoring the goals in that game.

However, Wolfsburg will be looking to Kevin De Bruyne and Bas Dost to fire them into the semi-finals. The pair have found the net 22 times between them so far this season. Dost is currently the team's top scorer with 13 goals in all competitions.

Recent form: LWWDWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWDWWW


Napoli's coach from Spain Rafael Benitez reacts during the Italian Serie A football match between AS Roma and Napoli on April 4, 2015© Getty Images

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez will want to make it a 55th birthday to remember when he takes his players to Germany.

The Spaniard's future has recently come under question, with some reports suggesting that he could take over at Manchester City should Manuel Pellegrini get the boot.

Benitez guided the Neapolitans into the last four thanks to a 3-1 aggregate win over Dynamo Moscow. A comfortable first-leg victory all but sealed their place in the next round before the sides played out a goalless draw in Russia.

This is the first time that Napoli have reached the quarter-finals of a European tournament since 1989. That year, they went all the way to the final in the UEFA Cup before beating Stuttgart over two legs.

Despite enjoying a strong run in Europe, Napoli have seen their Serie A title bid fall by the wayside in recent weeks due to a poor run of form. While they got back to winning ways on the weekend against Fiorentina, a five-game winless run before that has seen them slip 20 points behind leaders Juventus.

As for Napoli's dangermen, Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon have been in solid form all season. Higuain has 13 goals to his name, while Callejon has found the net 10 times so far.

Recent form: DWWWWD
Recent form (all competitions): LDDLLW

Team News

 Gonzalo Higuain of Napoli celebrates after scoring goal 3-1 during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 football match between SSC Napoli and FC Dinamo Moskva at the San Paolo Stadium on March 12, 2015© Getty Images

Wolfsburg midfielder Aaron Hunt will miss the game due to a knee problem, but Dieter Hecking has no further injury concerns to worry about.

Andre Schurrle could start the match after settling for a place on the bench against Hamburg.

Walter Gargano and Michu are both sidelined for the visitors with thigh injuries. Jonathan de Guzman could replace Gargano in midfield, while Marek Hamsik may return to the starting XI.

Wolfsburg possible starting lineup:
Benaglio; Vieirinha, Naldo, Knoche, Rodriguez; Guilavogui, Arnold; Perisic, De Bruyne, Schurrle; Dost

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Andujar; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Strinic; David Lopez, De Guzman; Callejon, Hamsik, Mertens; Higuain

Head To Head

This is the first time that the two sides have met in a competitive fixture.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Wolfsburg 2-1 Napoli

There is little to separate the teams heading into the match, but Wolfsburg's better form and the fact that they have home advantage means that the Germans could well sneak this one. The hosts currently have the wind in their sails, while Napoli are struggling to find a consistent level of performance.

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Wolfsburg's Swiss defender Ricardo Rodriguez celebrates after scoring  during the German Football Cup DFB Pokal quarter-final football match between VfL Wolfsburg and SC Freiburg in Wofsburg, central Germany, on April 7, 2015
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