Wolfsburg - A long injury list and a close shave in the DFB Cup notwithstanding, head coach Dieter Hecking is taking a resolutely upbeat approach to VfL Wolfsburg's Bundesliga curtain-raising trip to FC Bayern München.
Benaglio and Gustavo could be fit
“This kind of game can give us a real lift for Friday,” Hecking ventured in the wake of the Wolves' 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory at Bundesliga 2 new boys SV Darmstadt 98; “I'm confident we'll put in a good team performance there.”
No fewer than nine VfL players were unavailable for the cup game although some, such as flu-stricken Diego Benaglio – ably deputised by two-save shootout hero Max Grün – and midfield coordinator Luiz Gustavo, could be back in contention for a starting place at the Allianz Arena.
Whoever runs out for the visitors, though, they will have to up their all-round game considerably to have any chance against Bayern. Despite dominating possession, Wolfsburg were by the coach's own admission, “lacking a bit at the sharp end” - a luxury they can ill afford in Munich, where “you're not going to get many chances, and we'll have to make the most of those that come our way.”
Hecking remains upbeat
Contextualising his side's against lower league opposition, Hecking noted, “We're really struggling with injuries at the moment. That was no easy task, it was an intense, highly tactical contest.” Upcoming opponents Bayern are, he added, “still some way short of 100 percent themselves,” besides which, “nobody expects too much from us” in an away game against the record champions.
In fact, the expectation level attached to the Wolves these days is anything but negligible. After earning a return to the European arena with a fifth-place finish last season, the aspirational Lower Saxony club have made no bones about their medium-term target of qualification for the UEFA Champions League.
Having further strengthened their ranks over the summer with the canny acquisition of the likes of Sebastian Jung, Aaron Hunt and Nicklas Bendtner, many a pundit is tipping the Wolves as serious contenders to take the next step up this very season.
Low-key optimism is the note being struck in the run-up to Friday's season-opening extravaganza. Brazilian defensive coordinator Naldo - the lone Wolf who didn't hit the target from the spot in Darmstadt - has however gone out on a limb, concretely stating that “We're going there to pick up a point - or three.”