Wolfsburg finished second in the Bundesliga and won last season’s German Cup, but they may have topped that by reaching the last eight of the UEFA Champions League this time around. Coach Dieter Hecking, 51, explains how even Real Madrid might not be able to tame the Wolves.
UEFA.com: How did it feel to lead Wolfsburg to the quarter-finals for the first time?
Dieter Hecking: It was a special experience for the club and for the fans, but also for the team. It’s also a milestone for me in my career. I don’t think we had an easy group, but we’ve managed to win six out of eight matches so far, losing only twice – once against Eindhoven and once against Manchester United. We can be very satisfied with what we’ve achieved, especially since we’re taking part in the Champions League for the first time in six years.
Now we are in with the ‘crème de la crème’ of Europe – we have to face the teams who have dominated Europe in recent years. And we’re part of that with Wolfsburg, from a city of 120,000. That’s extraordinary for the club.
UEFA.com: How exciting is it to be facing Real Madrid in the quarter-finals?
Hecking: From a sporting point of view, I would have preferred Benfica, because that would be a 50-50 tie. But then there is the glamour of Real Madrid.
I think we can succeed if we don’t show too much respect for Real Madrid, the club and their individual players. They are a team just as we are, and we have to try to make it as difficult for them as possible with what we have. You have a chance in any match. We are big underdogs in this tie, but outsiders are there to be cheeky, and I would like to see my team doing that in both matches.
Anyone who knows Real Madrid knows their strengths. They have great quality in attack and have shown that in the Champions League. They’ve won seven of their eight matches this season, so we’re facing great quality, but we shouldn’t underestimate ourselves as we also have something to offer. I hope we can show that.
UEFA.com: What is the mood like in your squad?
Hecking: It has not been an easy season because last season we set the bar very high and we’ve had slight problems achieving our expectations. We have a lot of injured players which means we have had to improvise before almost every game. I hope the emotions surrounding the Madrid tie will make some injuries disappear, and that some more players will be fit to play. Also, we’ve never really got going when we needed to be among the top teams [in Germany], but there are seven games still to play in the league. We could finish fourth – we’re six points off that – but we need a great finish.
UEFA.com: What have you learnt as a coach from this UEFA Champions League campaign?
Hecking: That it is a huge amount of fun to play in the Champions League. Every single game has been a highlight. It’s a massive experience and an experience that I don’t want to miss out on. We deserve to be in the quarter-finals, we’re having a great season in the Champions League, so let’s see what we’ve still got in store.