Wolfsburg have some work to do if they want to complete the 'Italian Job' over Inter Milan. But with a solid advantage, the Germans will be keen to continue their impressive campaign.
Wolfsburg's arrival in Milan marks something of a milestone for the club. European success remains an unchartered rollercoaster ride, a whisper at the Volkswagen Arena, but on Thursday,with a 3-1 lead behind them
, the Wolves could book a spot in the quarterfinals.
The club's impressive rise to become the second-force in German football means that dealing with the label of 'favorites' won't be anything too new to Dieter Hecking's squad. Inter Milan are a stumbling wreck at the minute, yet it's the grandeur and elitist status that comes with one of the giants of Italian football that leaves a hint of doubt in the minds of the Germans.
"We definitely will expect a loud setting," admitted young Wolfsburg defender Robin Knoche ahead of the game. "We should have respect, but shouldn't worry. Milan will put pressure on us from the start. That's why we need to be solid in defense."
Wolfsburg's 3-0 win over Freiburg on Sunday was a return to winning ways for Hecking's side after a defeat at Augsburg the week previously ended a run of 11 games without a loss. Managing the demands of the Bundesliga and the Europa League hasn't been an issue so far for the Germans with just one draw - the rest victories - in matches following a European midweek.
Still, crucial to Wolfsburg's success in Milan will be Belgian Kevin de Bruyne (pictured above). The 23-year-old has the Midas touch at the moment with 23 assists in all competitions this season and 14 goals in the league and Europe - he had a hand in all three goals at the weekend.
De Bruyne has been courted by Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain according to media across Europe this week. It's a sign of the times for the Wolves: the team is turning heads with their comfortable nine-point cushion over third in the Bundesliga at the moment.
Part two of Germany vs. Italy
Thursday will be the second instalment in the Germany-Italy battle this week, with Italian champions Juventus dumping Borussia Dortmund out of the Champions League with a 5-1 win over two legs on Wednesday.
For Inter Milan, Thursday night equals win-or-bust for their season - the Champions League positions look unattainable in Serie A for the seventh-placed Nerrazzuri at the moment. The only way of securing qualification for Europe's top competition next season would be through the newly-opened channel of becoming the Europa League.
"It's all-or-nothing," said Inter skipper Andrea Ranocchia. "I hope that people come to the stadium. We need their full support from the first whistle to the last." Inter will be without German international Lukas Podolski, who wasn't selected in the team's European squad, while former Bayern Munich man Xherdan Shaqiri is expected to miss out on Thursday.
The UEFA Cup - the predecessor to the UEFA Europa League - has provided Inter Milan with many of their greatest moments. The Italian club has won the competition in 1991, 1994 and 1998 - and even lost to Schalke on penalties in the 1997 edition.
But Europe has yet to be kind to Wolfsburg: their only Champions League foray in 2009-10 ended at the group stage phase. Five years on, however, having avoided domestic relegation along the way, there's a different air around the Wolves this time around.