Tonight, Thursday 20 February, head coach Oliver Glasner and his men will be hosting Sweden’s Malmö FF in a first-leg knockout tie at the Volkswagen Arena (kick-off 21:00 CET). This is the third time that VfL have made it through to the Round of 32 of the UEFA Europa League.
The 20-time Swedish league and 14-time cup winners are one of the most successful clubs that their country has ever produced. In this season’s Europa League, they topped Group B ahead of Copenhagen, Dynamo Kyiv and Lugano to make it through to the knockout stage.
The coach of Sweden’s record league title winners was Uwe Rösler up until the end of 2019, before the German joined Fortuna Düsseldorf prior to the winter break. The new man at the helm is Jon Dahl Tomasson, who made 30 appearances for VfB Stuttgart between 2005 and 2007. The Swedish league does not resume until April, meaning that this tie in Wolfsburg is the Dane’s first real test. The club did however win his first match in charge, cruising through into the next round of the Swedish cup with an 8-0 win against third-division outfit Syrianska FC.
One player who missed out on that cup tie was Isaac Kiese Thelin, who is currently the country’s top striker. The Swedish international recently returned to home soil after a spell with RSC Anderlecht. Both Kiese Thelin (Bayer 04 Leverkusen) and Rasmus Bengtsson (Hertha Berlin) have Bundesliga experience, while the VfL back line will do well to keep a close eye on Guillermo Molins. The Uruguayan striker already has four Europa League goals to his name this season (including qualifiers).
Birthplace of a legend
Malmö’s greatest success on the international stage came in 1979 when they made it all the way through to the final of the European Cup, going down 1-0 to Nottingham Forest at Munich’s Olympiastadion. Two decades later, the career of the city’s most famous son got under way, when Malmö-born Zlatan Ibrahimovic cut his teeth in the MFF youth team. He made his debut for the first team around the turn of the millennium, before heading to Ajax and then going on to write many a chapter of footballing history.