What to Look for from Wolfsberger Versus Tottenham in UEL

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Tottenham Hotspur's Tanguy Ndombele (Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Tottenham Hotspur's Tanguy Ndombele (Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images) /

Austrian club Wolfsberger AC compete in their first ever European knockout match against Tottenham Hotspur in Hungary on Thursday. Unlike Tottenham, Wolfsberger started slow and has come on strong, as opposed to the recent fade we have seen with Spurs. So who are Wolfsberger and what can Spurs fans expect to see from the travelling hosts in the Europa League Round of 32 match-up?

Wolfsberger a Team Finding Form

Wolfsberger’s domestic campaign could not have started much worse for the club from Wolfsberg, Austria. Wolves lost four of their first five league matches languishing in the bottom half of the Austrian Bundesliga table. Given that six teams are safe and six teams compete in a competition to see who stays in the top division and who is relegated, the poor start was quite concerning.

However, following back-to-back defeats in Europa League to Group K winner GNK Dinamo Zagreb, something started to click for Wolfsberger. First, Wolfsberger won their last two Europa League group stage matches to advance to the Round of 32 and then the team went on a run.

Since November Wolfsberger has only lost 3 matches in all competitions. The team has gone from the relegation zone to relative safety in sixth, six points above the relegation group. Additionally, Wolfsberger has been advancing in their domestic cup, currently awaiting a semi-final match-up with LASK in early March in the Stiegl Cup.

Over the last 11 games in all competitions Wolfsberger is 7-2-2. In other words, if fans were hoping for a pushover or maybe just a team that is struggling, Wolfsberger is not it. Even the one advantage Spurs seemingly have of being the away team – Wolfsberger has performed better on the road than at home this season – is out the window as both teams are travelling to Hungary for the match at Puskas Arena.

So Wolfsberger has some form, what can Spurs expect for style?

Wolfsberger has scored three or more goals four times this season, so they are capable of getting in there and scoring. However, by and large, Wolfsberger is trying to keep the game close and pip one on you. That was the approach the team took in the Group Stages where two 1-0 wins in the last two matches were enough to propel the team through.

During this little run of form, Wolfsberger is only conceding .82 goals per match while scoring 1.27. That may not sound like a huge margin, but at .45 it is almost half a goal per match and more importantly for the Austrians they are finding ways to win.

Some of that comes from the immediate pressure they will look to apply when they have the ball. 41% of all the Wolfsberger passes during the Group Stage were forward passes. Do not expect the Austrians to try to build a ton, rather, they are going to look to strike quickly with the ball and take advantage of defensive errors, something Spurs fans know all too well. With nearly 1 in 5 passes from Wolfsberger a long ball, expect a lot of back forth action.

Wolfsberger’s penchant for penalties should concern Tottenham

Already a team looking to hit fast and find the defense in a position to make errors is something Spurs are going to have to look for. However, when you look deeper at Wolfsberger in the Group Stage you see a team that scored from very little.

Tottenham created 20 big chances during the group stage and scored 15 goals as a result. Alternatively, Wolfsberger created only 2 big chances across the six matches, yet had seven goals. The big difference was that Wolfsberger created and/or were awarded four penalties in the six group stage matches.

Given Tottenham seem to be handing out penalty kicks like Halloween candy, this should concern everyone in the Spurs camp. Tottenham are going to need more concentration and focus from the starting XI, especially the defense to avoid a mistake that could cost the team the game.

Wolfsberger is more than capable of a win

The reality is if Tottenham do not show up they can get beat by Wolfsberger on Thursday. Wolves have struggled against the one common opponent they have both faced LASK, who twice beat Wolfsberger and drew and lost to Tottenham. However, Wolfsberger has beaten league leader RB Salzburg in Salzburg 2-3 for a huge league win earlier this season, so they are capable.

That said, this is the club’s first ever European knockout game against, where they are facing an English opponent for the first time. it is possible that the moment is just too much for the Austrians and they cannot handle it. However, Spurs should not count on that.

Instead, Tottenham should be ready for a a well drilled, well organized team they are facing on Thursday. This does not mean Spurs cannot or should not break them down and win the match by two goals or more, it is just that to do so Tottenham has to play well. As a team looking to win this entire competition, breaking down and beating inferior competition is something Tottenham should be able to do. Ultimately, as a Spurs fan that is all I have really been looking for the team to play hard and well. Thursday Tottenham will need both to get by Wolfsberger.

Next. Spurs Projected XI for Wolfsberger. dark