Wolfsburg heading to Gent in a confident mood
WOLFSBURG head to Gent on Wednesday in confident mood for a fixture which is new territory for both clubs.
It is the first time either the Belgians or the Germans have qualified for the knockout rounds of the Champions League, and only one of their historic paths will continue. Wolfsburg are confident they will be the ones continuing to make history, having ended their seven-match winless run in the Bundesliga last weekend.
The 2-0 win against Ingolstadt - their first in any competition since beating Manchester United 3-2 in their final group game - has given the team confidence, according to Germany international Julian Draxler.
“We needed this, after the recent weeks without a success,” said Draxler.
“We can build on it and, of course, our self-confidence has risen. Now we go into the highlight of our week with a good feeling.”
From the side which started the win over United, which clinched the Wolves’ place in the last 16, they will be missing suspended defender Naldo: “He’s a very important member of our team, but we’ve had plenty of situations in which we’ve had to cope without an important player and we’ve got to cover for this as a team on Wednesday,” Draxler added.
Wolfsburg will be considered favourites to progress, even if they are also without Diego Benaglio and Daniel Caligiuri. Defender Robin Knoche knows the importance of ensuring they head back to Germany on the back of a positive result.
He said: “Gent are a very aggressive side who are strong at home. We will give it all we’ve got to establish a good position for the return leg.”
Gent may also have been pleased with the draw, having avoided other group winners such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but their coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck says there is no such thing as an easy draw.
“I don’t believe that Wolfsburg are one of the weaker teams,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“None of the teams in the last 16 of the Champions League are weak. They finished runners-up in the Bundesliga, and for me that is the best league in Europe together with the Primera Division.”
That does not mean Gent need to have any fear, though, according to their defender Stefan Mitrovic: “We deserved every point in the Champions League and while Wolfsburg may have more experience, we are very focused on getting a result,” he said.
“I don’t think we have anything to be afraid of at all. We have already proven ourselves in the Champions League.’’