VfL Wolfsburg coach Ralf Kellermann tells UEFA.com about reaching the final at the first attempt, what it means to play at Stamford Bridge and the challenge of Olympique Lyonnais.
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In five years at the VfL Wolfsburg helm, Ralf Kellermann has overseen their rise from Frauen Bundesliga also-rans to next Thursday's UEFA Women's Champions League final against Olympique Lyonnais at Chelsea FC.
This is their debut European season and they have seen off the likes of experienced FC Rossiyanka and Arsenal LFC to make the decider, which they will go into as German champions for the first time after last Sunday's title-clinching win. Kellermann spoke to UEFA.com about their run to the final and what it means to play at Stamford Bridge.
UEFA.com : How have you found your debut European season ?
Ralf Kellermann: A positive experience. It started for me with the competition draw in Nyon, it was the first time for me and it was a great experience. Then the preparation and the anticipation prior to the games. Some of our players had experienced this and they prepared the girls who didn't have any experience. We noticed a real anticipation in the days leading up to games. Then there was all the travelling, with the highlight of playing in Moscow. Then the game against Arsenal in our arena, the semi-final return leg. It was a great memory, the whole team enjoyed that moment, and we're so happy. So we've had only positive experiences.
UEFA.com: What were the key moments?
Kellermann: It was very important [after conceding against Rossiyanka in the quarter-final first leg] to see how the team reacted after what felt like a defeat, because we should have been 4-0 or 5-0 ahead but only won 2-1 in the end. So to see how the team would react to the pressure of playing in Moscow with the fatigue from travelling, knowing that conceding one goal at Rossiyanka would mean the end of the Champions League campaign.
The team reacted brilliantly. They didn't give away many chances at the back and we deservedly won 2-0. It was a great performance and I am proud of how they reacted. Also both games against Arsenal, home and away, we played the 90 minutes at the highest level, at a high pace.
UEFA.com: What makes German football so strong, both at club and national team levels?
Kellermann: We have very high individual quality, exceptional players in Germany. And in Germany, women's football is very professional, so teams have an advantage in training, both tactically and physically. With this tradition in recent years, maybe teams have more confidence when approaching games in this competition. That is one side of it, but I have to say that other countries have caught up in the club competitions and it will only get tighter. I am interested to see if German teams will continue getting to the final.
UEFA.com: In the space of a fortnight you have lifted the league trophy and have the German Cup and UEFA Women's Champions League finals – is the highlight at Stamford Bridge?
Kellermann: Absolutely. The championship celebration and the German Cup final are important highlights too, but this final at Stamford Bridge ... The topic was raised within the team before the last 16 against the Norwegian champions Røa. The simple fact that the final would take place at Stamford Bridge, there was some euphoria and we had an objective in front of us. We wanted to go to Stamford Bridge.
UEFA.com: You have a lot of young players in the squad as well as experienced performers such as Conny Pohlers or Martina Müller ...
Kellermann: I am glad to have such experienced and successful players in the squad. I cannot compare the two players, because they have different qualities. Conny Pohlers is a striker, she has the goalscoring instinct. At 34 she has proven it many times, even recently with important goals, and she has often scored the winner. That's her great skill. Young players coming through, or girls in the squad, can learn a lot from her.
Martina Müller is also very dangerous in front of goal and she has been our figurehead for many years now – she has played at Wolfsburg since 2005. She is a role model as far as her involvement and desire are concerned. I don't think there has been a game in which Martina has not given 100%.
UEFA.com: Is playing Lyon the ultimate challenge?
Kellermann: Lyon are incredibly impressive. I attended the last two finals and their team is really great. But we are looking forward to this challenge and I am convinced that we will play our best football. If we have a good day and concentrate on this day only, then we have a good chance to beat Lyon.