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FC Rossiyanka, beaten by German clubs in both their previous quarter-finals, are hoping to turn the tide as they travel to UEFA Women's Champions League debutants VfL Wolfsburg for Wednesday's quarter-final first leg.
Forward Natalia Shlyapina fully recognises that Rossiyanka will be up against the physical strength of their hosts but believes German coach Achim-Matthias Feifel's arrival at the Russian champions has made a big difference.
UEFA.com: How would you assess your campaign so far?
Natalia Shlyapina: The Champions League? I think it's been successful, because we got through to the spring and the quarter-finals, and that's always a very good result for the team. And hopefully we'll get even further. Our goal? Always the same – to win the Champions League.
UEFA.com: Going back to the last tie, against Sparta Praha, you won 1-0 away but then drew 2-2 at home. It seemed those games turned out harder for you than expected ...
Shlyapina: Well, I wouldn't say we were expecting an easy ride. We were prepared and we knew it would be hard for us in the Czech Republic and during the return match. Despite that, we won in the Czech Republic. Maybe we then expected it would be a bit easier [at home]. But we never thought we would fail to progress – we were 100% sure we would win.
UEFA.com: Now for Wolfsburg ...
Shlyapina: German teams have always been known for good results and for their physical fitness. It's very hard to play against German clubs because they're physically strong and well developed. They are also very well trained tactically. That is why we have to work a lot to keep them occupied or give them something to think about.
UEFA.com: Rossiyanka have fallen to German clubs in both previous quarter-finals. What needs to happen for Rossiyanka to win?
Shlyapina: First, I think we need to improve physically, we need to make a breakthrough in our physical training. Because one of the main problems for Russian clubs compared with other European sides is that we're physically weaker. German [players] can run for 90 minutes without pausing or stopping, but when you look at Russian clubs you can see that by the 70th minute there's some fatigue – we can't play at the same level. That is why physical training is paramount.
Second, we have to improve in terms of technique. Because when there's fatigue you get a lot of mistakes. And also tactically we'll have to prepare for them, we'll have to watch them play and look for any weaknesses.
UEFA.com: Will it help having a German coach?
Shlyapina: I think it will help the team because he knows more about German football and about Wolfsburg in particular. That is why I think it's a bonus for us.
UEFA.com: What has he changed since arriving?
Shlyapina: First of all, he added order and discipline. As we know, Germans have this quality of mandatory and implicit discipline. So he added that. There's no more slackness, everything is stricter. Then he changed the training: the number of sessions has increased.
Previously during the season we used to have one training session a day; now, whether it's a training camp or not, we train twice a day almost every day. Of course, we had to adjust to that. Maybe we started to pay more attention to physical training and also working with the ball. We've started to work a lot on technique.
UEFA.com: How has the UEFA Women's Champions League helped Russian women's football generally?
Shlyapina: It has given us new goals and ambitions – to participate in the Champions League and play against other opponents, not just Russian but European ones. It's a big step forward for our teams, and for women's football in general. Because you can get international experience. And based on that you can take further steps in your development.
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