Leverkusen - Bayer Leverkusen have achieved their first goal of the season by securing UEFA Europa League football for 2013. Thursday's 3-0 win home win against SK Rapid Wien saw the Werkself safely through to the first knockout round of the competition with two group games to spare.

Bayer are now unbeaten in twelve competitive outings and on Sunday they could edge up to third in the Bundesliga standings. Captain Simon Rolfes spoke with bundesliga.com about his side’s strengths, and the challenges yet to come this season

bundesliga.com: Congratulations on reaching the knockout stage of the Europa League so swiftly. Four games, ten points, no goals conceded - how happy are you with that balance?

Rolfes: We’ve reached our first mid-term target of the season. We're out of the group and now we want to finish top by winning in Kharkiv. It’s always important for successful sides not to concede many goals and it’s quite astounding that we haven't let one in yet. That shows we've found the right attitude, even if it was tough for a while in the first half against Rapid. We took the game a bit too lightly, but overall we kept our focus and we’re happy. It doesn’t surprise me at all that we are where we are in the group.

bundesliga.com: Are the remaining two group games now more of a hassle or are you still looking forward to them?

Rolfes: Like I said, it’s important that we secure top spot in Kharkiv. We want to win there and wrap things up. Then we can take the Rosenborg game a little easier and rotate the team. That would also give the players who haven't played much the opportunity to prove themselves.

bundesliga.com: You’re on a bit of a run now, what’s the secret?

Rolfes: We’re tactically disciplined and everyone's doing his share of the defensive work. Our clean sheets in the Europa League are testimony to that. We’re always dangerous going forward, that’s never been our problem. We're finding a good balance between defence and attack.

bundesliga.com: There was quite a lot of rotation against Rapid with players like Lars Bender an Stefan Kießling not even in the squad. Is there more strength in depth in the Leverkusen squad this year compared to last season?

Rolfes: We’re always able to make one or two changes, but nothing major. We definitely have the quality on the bench, but I don’t think we could do what Bayern Munich did against Kaiserslautern and change nine players in one go. We don’t have quite that much strength in depth.

bundesliga.com: Bayer have now gone twelve games unbeaten. At the weekend, you can move up to third with a win against Wolfsburg (Rolfes is suspended for this one, ed.) if Frankfurt fail to beat Bayern. Is that the position you're aiming for?

Rolfes: We’re currently where we believe we belong in the standings. We'll be chasing the win in Wolfsburg on Sunday. Maybe then we move up another place, but we have to concentrate on the game first. We did the job against Rapid without playing particularly well. We struggled at times against Düsseldorf too. The important thing is that we improve further on Sunday.

bundesliga.com: How do you rate VfL Wolfsburg?

Rolfes: Even if Wolfsburg are a long way down the table, they have a good team. The league standings are irrelevant. They're a top team who have had problems in recent weeks. They're unpredictable and have very good individual players - and the potential to do a lot better. The fact is, they're one of the best-equipped teams in the Bundesliga so we're going to have to really push ourselves and it’s sure to be a tough game.

Interview by Tobias Gonscherowski