'We won't underestimate Wolfsburg'

The first home game of the new season is here: This Saturday sees VfL Wolfsburg visit the BayArena in a 15.30 CET kick-off. On paper, the Werkself face the team in fifth place – but after just one game in the Bundesliga campaign the table has little bearing at the moment. However, the team from Lower Saxony have got off to a good start with a 2-1 home win against last season's runners-up Schalke 04.

"Wolfsburg have two difficult seasons behind them and ambitions were certainly higher after being in the Champions League. But the performances in the first two games this season show they don't want to go through the same experience again," said the Werkself head coach Heiko Herrlich at Friday's pre-match press conference – held at the media centre in the BayArena immediately after the Europa League group draw – looking at progress in the DFB Cup (1-0 at Regional League side SV Elversberg) and the surprise win against Schalke 04. "They have a number of highly talented players and last week beat a club who are among the front runners for a Champions League finish. We want to get there too but it does also show what Wolfsburg are capable of. We definitely won't underestimate them, we're up against an opponent  looking to compete on equal terms," said the 46-year-old.

Herrlich Confident

The Bayer 04 coach is optimistic his players will perform better than in last week's game at Gladbach. On one hand, chances should be taken against Wolfsburg and, on the other, the drop in performance levels in the second half should be avoided. "Our ambitions are clear in that we want to win all our games. We showed that in the first half against Gladbach by creating good chances. You could criticise the lads for not scoring – but they didn't miss deliberately and they wouldn't do that," said Herrlich. His players eased off after the restart and were guilty of an increasing number of individual mistakes. "We had that situation on a number of occasions last season. But you can't forget we were the second youngest team. I think it's quite possible our players will soon be at a point when they perform perfectly. But that's a process we are working on with them and I believe we are on track," said Herrlich who emphasised that his Werkself team is eager to be successful.

The coach is keen to see a positive effect from the international call up for his players during the week, which included Kai Havertz being in the Germany squad for the first time. "I think it can produce a positive atmosphere." The conditions are there to register a home win against VfL Wolfsburg tomorrow.

Both benders on board, Hradecky On the bench

And the personnel situation has eased at Leverkusen. Lars and Sven Bender, not in the squad for the Gladbach game due to injury, are available for the opening home fixture. Charles Aránguiz was also able to take part in full training this week as he works hard on making his comeback after knee problems. As was the case last week, the 29-year-old Chilean could be in the squad again. That also applies to Lukas Hradecky – in a Bayer 04 kit for the first time. The Finland keeper has recovered from a jaw operation in the middle of July and is also ready to make his comeback. "As I said at the start of the week, Rambo Özcan will start. But Lukas will be on the bench for the first time tomorrow," confirmed Herrlich. 

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