Quarterfinalists for the first time, Wolfsburg's season has built up to Wednesday's clash with Real Madrid. But last season's German Cup winners require a stark improvement from this season's erratic league form.
Wolfsburg's form in the Bundesliga this season has been no marker for their second foray into the Champions League. Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, PSV Eindhoven and Gent have been dispatched so far, whilst efforts to finish in the league's top-four in comparison have been timid at best.
Wolfsburg, who finished second behind Bayern Munich last season, have rightly earned a money-spinning crack at Real Madrid, the team to have won the competition more than any other. But three wins from 15 league games offer little cause for optimism as they prepare to face one of the favorites to win the tournament this season.
"The bottom line is we are not acting like a Champions League team in the Bundesliga. This match coming up is for some players something extraordinary and you don't know if you will experience it again," said the club's sporting director, Klaus Allofs, whose team could miss out on the tournament next season, should Wolfsburg fail to reach the top-four.
Wolfsburg's 3-0 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen leaves them seven points off fourth place with six games remaining. An ailing defense of Dante and Robin Knoche has looked vulnerable, whilst the absence of a match-winner like Kevin de Bruyne, who joined Manchester City last summer, has been a problem.
Yet all is not lost ahead of the club's first-ever Champions League quarterfinal. "It would be fatal if we were not looking forward to it," Allofs continued. "That's something you have to enjoy and, with a view to the game in Leverkusen, we need to get things right."
Draxler relishes big occasion
For attacking-midfielder Julian Draxler, the opportunity to rub shoulders with Real Madrid on a consisent basis was one of the reasons to leave boyhood club Schalke. The 22-year-old cost the Wolves around 36 million euro ($41 million) this summer, but he has needed time to stamp his influence on Dieter Hecking's team.
While other key players have had one eye on the Real Madrid fixture for several weeks, Draxler has stepped up to the mark in the league. The German international has netted four times since the winter break and has scored four Champions League goals in his previous three games. "I am pretty sure that we can get a good result in our own stadium," the midfielder said in an interview with the SID news agency.
"We need to have due respect, but not be afraid of Real Madrid. I feel a tremendous anticipation. I think there is nothing better than playing in the Champions League quarterfinals against Real Madrid," added Draxler. Real Madrid, ten-time winners of the competition, claimed a massive win over rivals Barcelona at the Camp Nou on Saturday to close the gap at the top of La Liga to seven points.
Ronaldo, the all-time leading scorer in the Champions League, struck the winner for Los Blancos in the derby on Saturday. Karim Benzema added the other as the Spaniards make slow progress under Zinedine Zidane, who won the tournament as a player in 2002. "We know just how important the Champions League is and we want to advance, so winning in Barcelona was very important," the Frenchman said.