Wolfsburg - Dieter Hecking's VfL Wolfsburg were slow out of the blocks in 2013/14, but ended the campaign an agonising point short of their stated pre-season aim of the UEFA Champions League.

With under a week to go until their mouthwatering Matchday 1 opener with FC Bayern München, bundesliga.com runs the rule over the Lower Saxony club's chances of a successful season, both domestically and in the UEFA Europa League.

It's no coincidence that the arrival of Kevin de Bruyne in January 2014 and his subsequent settling into the team ran parallel to Wolfsburg's upturn in form. The Belgian midfield gem works tirelessly both in defence and attack and boasts a good an eye for goal, as he demonstrated with three strikes in his debut half-season. If his smooth introduction into life at the Auto-City-Club continues, Hecking's men will be set for a strong campaign.

Much of Wolfsburg's good work going forward last season was built upon a defensive base in midfield. Luiz Gustavo primarily took that role last season, but will work in tandem this term with exciting Frenchman Josuha Guilavogui. The 23-year-old, on a season-long loan from Club Atletico de Madrid, has five international caps, made the French provisional World Cup squad and possesses a languid style that should complement Gustavo's tenacity perfectly.

As a player, Dieter Hecking turned out for Wolfsburg's two fiercest rivals, Eintracht Braunschweig and Hannover 96, but any doubts about his commitment to the Wolfsburg cause have been blown away since his arrival from 1. FC Nürnberg in December 2012. The side were struggling in 15th when he arrived, before he lifted them up to 11th. Last season saw his pragmatic style of football pay off again as the Wolves finished fifth, recording victories over Borussia Dortmund and Mönchengladbach in the process.

With the signings made over the last few years - Brazilian star (pictured) included - Wolfsburg could realistically challenge the top three. A season-opener against champions FC Bayern München will gauge how equipped they are to meet such an objective. Coupled with a European run, another year of establishing themselves among the Bundesliga's elite is the remit for Hecking's men, before they can consider pushing for a second Bundesliga title after the first in 2009.

The Wolves' brilliant end to the season, combined with Bayer 04 Leverkusen's dip in form, had fans convinced that fourth spot was theirs. Despite a five-game unbeaten run to conclude the campaign, they'd failed to gather enough points earlier in the year and finished just short of the top four. Although scant consolation, they did score several contenders for goal of the season, with Naldo's (pictured) strike against Eintracht Frankfurt, Ivica Olic's against Borussia Dortmund and Arnold's against SV Werder Bremen all worth a look.

The team's international line-up from last term only required minor summer alterations. Diego Benaglio will continue in goal, as will Naldo, Robin Knoche and Ricardo Rodriguez in a defence supplemented by new signing Sebastian Jung. Guilavogui will ease into midfield alongide Gustavo, while Arnold, de Bruyne, Vieirinha, Ivan Perisic and new boy Aaron Hunt will fight it out for the positions behind veteran goal-getter Olic (pictured), who has a new challenger for his position in the shape of Danish international forward Nicklas Bendtner.

The most pleasing aspect of VfL Wolfsburg's pre-season run has been the integration of their new men, in particular Aaron Hunt (pictured), and the return from injury of another talented young midfielder in Junior Malanda. Comfortable wins over regional outfits were followed by beating Hamburger SV in the Telekom Cup, only to lose 3-0 to Bayern in the final, and then 5-1 to Atletico Madrid. They bounced back from that defeat with a hard-fought penalty shootout win over SV Darmstadt 98 in the DFB Cup.