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Twelve months on from lifting the UEFA Women's Champions League trophy at Stamford Bridge, Nadine Kessler hopes to do so again on Thursday when she captains VfL Wolfsburg against Tyresö FF at Lisbon's Estádio do Restelo.
Whereas last year Wolfsburg were the newcomers meeting the holders Olympique Lyonnais, this time Kessler's side are defending champions facing European debutants. The 26-year-old midfielder tells UEFA.com about how that makes it "an even bigger challenge", the threat posed by Tyresö and how Wolfsburg's epic semi-final defeat of 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam won over previous critics of the women's game.
UEFA.com: How does it feel to have made it to the final again?
Nadine Kessler: It's just fantastic. It really was hard work, we've had to beat great teams in the earlier rounds to get here. If you manage to beat Barcelona, if you manage to beat Malmö and even Potsdam in really difficult games, then I guess you absolutely deserve to achieve that, and it makes it even more special to have reached the final.
UEFA.com: Is this season different compared to last season? Last season you were the newcomers, now you are defending champions ...
Kessler: Yes, it has been totally different, in all competitions, so also in the Champions League. Expectations are very high, and the Champions League has a very high prestige for everyone, so we have had a lot more pressure compared to last season, which turns it into an even bigger challenge.
UEFA.com: Could you tell us how intense that all-German semi-final was, and what it meant?
Kessler: It is always a very explosive tie against Potsdam, there are a lot of emotions involved. Potsdam are a very passionate club, and weeks before the semi-final there was already a lot in the media. The first leg was a tough battle, we created a lot of chances to score that important away goal, but didn't manage to do it. Nevertheless the first leg was tough and intense, but without any goals.
Then in the return leg everybody, the fans too, got their money's worth, thanks to everything that match had to offer, a lot of excitement, a lot of goals, and just going backwards and forwards. There were a lot of duels, a great desire to run a lot, and a lot of emotions involved, so I think it was a fantastic women's football match.
UEFA.com: How important are matches like that, and also the Champions League as a competition, in taking women's football forward and bringing it closer to the public?
Kessler: The Champions League is extremely important. I have been lucky enough to participate in it for several years, and there has been great feedback and support. And nowadays many matches are aired on TV; that last tie especially attracted a great number of viewers on TV. There has been a lot of positive feedback from critics too, and people who weren't really attracted by women's football. So I think that's it, to show that it is attractive, and that it can be thrilling.
UEFA.com: What kind of final do you expect, and what do you have to do to be successful?
Kessler: We have to show that same attitude and present ourselves as a team. Everybody should be willing to run more and be there for their team-mates. We have to play as a team – that is what has characterised us. Then I think we can beat Tyresö.
But on paper their team are really strong, despite not having had a lot of international experience so far. But if you read the names, like Marta, [Caroline] Seger and others, you can see that there is a lot of potential in that team. We know how strong they are and we know we can only defend our title if we give 100%.
UEFA.com: How was the feeling of lifting that trophy last season at Stamford Bridge?
Kessler: I have goosebumps right now, again. It is just great, and you can't really describe it. It is the ultimate, to be there playing at Stamford Bridge, in that stadium. It is all just unique.
UEFA.com: Will you watch that final again before this season's final, just to bring back that atmosphere and those feelings?
Kessler: I guess so. I have to say that the coaching staff and all the people around us want to create a good atmosphere, and have been working with motivational videos, for example, from last season. The success at Stamford Bridge is still there, and I hope we will feel the same in this year's final.
UEFA.com: Is there anything special that you will tell your team before the final in Lisbon?
Kessler: Yes, definitely. I always say something before matches, or somebody else, depending on how you feel or if there is somebody who wants to say something. Before the final in Lisbon I will definitely say something to the team, but I haven't thought about the exact words yet.
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