Having signed three more German internationals to bolster an already star-studded squad, VfL Wolfsburg are tipped for a strong European debut as coach Ralf Kellermann tells UEFA.com.
Article top media content
Of the four German sides to have competed in UEFA women's club competition, three – 1. FFC Frankfurt, 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam and FCR 2001 Duisburg – took the title on their debut entry. Ambitious VfL Wolfsburg hope to do likewise in the UEFA Women's Champions League this term.
They kick off their round of 32 tie away to Poland's RTP Unia Racibórz on Thursday. German international signings Viola Odebrecht, Alexandra Popp and Luisa Wensing are among those bolstering a squad that finished second in the Frauen Bundesliga. They join the likes of Josephine Henning, Verena Faisst, Lena Goessling, Nadine Kessler, Martina Müller and Conny Pohlers, who helped Wolfsburg to open the new season on Sunday with a 6-0 defeat of VfL Sindelfingen. It is hardly surprising that coach Ralf Kellermann believes his side could compete for a seventh German victory in 12 seasons of European competition.
UEFA.com: After almost winning the Bundesliga, is the UEFA Women's Champions League a nice bonus or more than that?
Ralf Kellermann: We want to continue the German tradition. Everybody knows how successful German teams have been in this competition in the past, almost always reaching the quarter-finals or semi-finals. This will also be our goal. The Champions League is new ground for us and we are looking forward to it. My players are desperate to represent German football, these games will be absolute highlights and the Champions League creates the biggest impact.
UEFA.com: You have twice played Unia on home soil in the last year and failed to win ...
Kellermann: My first reaction after the draw was that these will be two difficult games. I didn't say that to be modest. They are a compact and physical side and they showed us in these two games how strong they are. But I am confident we will reach the next round, if we show what we can and stay focused in both games.
UEFA.com: How pleased are you with the way your pre-season has progressed, considering the fact that the start of the Bundesliga season was delayed [due to the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup]?
Kellermann: We had a training camp in Austria and participated in an international tournament in Enschede. We made good progress and we feel physically prepared for the challenges ahead of us. It was a bit difficult, as six or seven players were missing through injury or their participation in the U-20 Women's World Cup, but there will be enough games in September and October to build up.
UEFA.com: Is having a deep and balanced squad a major plus?
Kellermann: Definitely. We have filled two or three gaps for the new season. We have a very successful pair of strikers, Conny Pohlers and Martina Müller, but they are 32 and 34, so fresh blood was necessary in the form of Alexandra Popp. Luisa Wensing can play as central defender or full-back and Viola Odebrecht is a leader in midfield. And we have been eying Carolin Simon for a long time.
UEFA.com: How do you want to cope with the burden of playing three competitions?
Kellermann: From my own experience I know that it is more a mental than a physical problem. We will be rotating, which is why it is important to have a deep squad of this quality. But we know, it will be also difficult, as even experienced players might be sitting on the bench sometimes. We have prepared the players and talked to them individually in the training camp.
UEFA.com: There will be live television coverage of both of your round of 32 games. Does it help to gain new fans?
Kellermann: Media coverage is important if you want women's football to progress. Having Champions League live coverage is extremely important for us and our sponsors and with a good first leg we can do some promotion to attract more spectators for the second leg.