Wolfsburg and Mönchengladbach have different European goals in their sights on matchday 5 of the Champions League group stage. But both will need to produce strong results to fulfill their aspirations.
When it comes to preparing for a big Champions League match, VfL Wolfsburg could not have done much better than the 6-0 trouncing of Werder Bremen at the weekend. This was just the kind of response head coach Dieter Hecking and sporting director Klaus Allofs were looking for after their harsh words of criticism for the team following a couple of emotionless displays in Eindhoven and Mainz.
"When you win 6-0, there is very little to criticize," said Hecking in a prematch press conference on Tuesday.
"Something that I found very positive was how the team got together without the presence of those sportingly responsible," Hecking referring to a meeting the players held without him or Allofs present. "Apparently we, and the players, found the right words."
Wolfsburg's 2-0 road loss to Dutch club PSV Eindhoven is the biggest result holding them back in their Champions League group. Wolfsburg is tied with Eindoven on six points with two matches to play, one point behind Group B leaders Manchester United.
What Wolfsburg's big win may have done is provided the necessary boost to some of side's crucial players. André Schürrle had recorded one goal and one assist in 16 matches before providing two assists against Bremen, and Max Kruse came back from injury to score two goals himself.
"Now we can go into the Champions League game in Moscow very confidently, although we are well aware that it is a completely different game," Hecking said.
Though CSKA Moscow are at the bottom of the group, they are a team that is tough to beat at home. In fact, only one club has beaten them in Arena Khimki in the Champions League in the past two seasons, and that was Bayern Munich in an empty stadium. Forwards Seydou Doumbia and Ahmed Musa spark the final third, and they have one of the best coaches in the modern game, Leonid Slutsky, strolling the sidelines.
Wolfsburg are not helped by the fact Luiz Gustavo, their rock in central midfield, is out injured with a leg wound. Club record signing Julian Draxler will jump back into the team after missing the weekend with a red card suspension.
Gladbach continue fight for the Europa League
Two draws and two losses in Champions League play has eliminated Borussia Mönchengladbach from knockout stage contention, but the Europa League is not out of their reach. It may be a second-tier competition that some despise, but the Foals nonetheless have aspiration in participating in the tournament.
"Our confidence is high, we are in good shape and our goal is third place to qualify for the Europa League," said winger Ibrahima Traoré in a press conference on Tuesday. "We need to be courageous and play our own game, like we did against Juventus."
A 1-1 draw with Juventus in Borussia Park was Gladbach's most recent result in the Champions League, one that prevented the Italian champions from staying atop of Group D. The Foals now have an opportunity to eliminate defending Europa League champion Sevilla from knockout contention in their home ground, and Schubert is very keen on doing so.
"We have to go to our absolute limit and give it everything we have," said Schubert. "We aren't under any pressure, but we do have a duty to give it our all."
Gladbach are on a roll under Schubert, losing just once under the manager in all competition and shooting back up the Bundesliga table. Gladbach's performance even earned Schubert a contract extension until the end of the 2016-17 season. With just two matchdays to go, Gladbach's match against Sevilla could well determine who will earn a ticket to the Europa League, so the Foals will need to continue their high flying form if they want to keep their European season going.
dv/pfd (dpa, AFP)