After a run to European play last season in the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg is hoping to build on that performance for an even better finish. The Champions League was their goal last year and that will not change. Manager Dieter Hecking used his pragmatic form of football to move a team from 11th to fifth in one and a half years. The fourth-highest valued squad in Germany have built a quality side with justified optimism. A top three finish is definitely in play for the Lower Saxony club.
Wolfsburg finished a point out of Champions League play. Their slow start came back to bite them despite a five-game unbeaten streak to end the season. They showed class all over the field scoring many memorable goals. They tallied 63 goals on the year to finish fifth and qualify for Europa League play. Wolfsburg finished the season with a +13 goal differential despite conceding six times in back-to-back games in March. One of those defeats was to Bayern Munich.
The back four remains largely intact, although they are dealing with an injury to Christian Träsch. Former Eintracht Frankfurt right back Sebastian Jung may have taken the starter reigns from Träsch regardless. The other three positions stay the same. Naldo and Robin Knoche will be the center back pairing. Ricardo Rodriguez will be the left back.
The center of the pitch is loaded with talent for the Auto-City-Club. Luis Gustavo has a reputation of a hard tackler in the defensive midfield, but his pace and tenacity frustrates opponents. Gustavo took over the role last year and made this team immensely better in transitioning from defense to offense. This year he will have a partner in that role, with loanee Josuha Guilavogui taking some of the pressure away from the Brazilian. The 23 year old is on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid and could be one of the breakout stars in the Bundesliga.
Kevin de Bruyne is part of an international lineup that creates a formidable attack through the center of the field. He was a star in Belgium’s victory over the USMNT in the World Cup. When de Bruyne arrived in January, the team’s form approved immediately. He will work hard on both defense and offense and will be a key to Wolfsburg’s success.
The attack is strong with veteran Ivica Olic up top. Olic will be the beneficiary of work by Vieirinha, Aaron Hunt, Junior Malanda and Ivan Perisic. Perisic is currently injured, which may give Daniel Caligiuri a chance. Of course it may also open up a space for their newest acquisition.
They have just added 2009 Denmark Footballer of the Year Nicklas Bendtner. Coach Dieter Hecking says that he is exactly what the club needed. He of the high ponytail will wear No. 3 for Wolfsburg, supposedly because his mother told him to sport it. He will be a big target for Wolfsburg’s set pieces.
This is a high quality side that made minor, yet solid additions this summer. They have continuity to work with so integration of the new pieces should not be hard. With a goal that eluded them last year, and one that all the players can get behind, they will make a run to the top of the table. They are building a foundation for this run in the preseason with wins of 26-0 and 9-0. However, They have had some disappointing matches prior to the season with a penalty shootout win in Round 1 of the DFB Pokal and a loss in the final of the Telekom Cup to Bayern Munich. They will face the champions in the marquee match up of the first week. This will be a great test for Wolfsburg as they eye the Champions League.
2014-15 Record: 19-9-6, 66 Points, Third Place