When the quarter final draw of the Uefa Champions League was revealed on March 18, 2016, the easiest of the fixtures was supposedly Real Madrid against last eight debutants Vfl Wolfsburg. Los Blancos were expected to cruise to victory but in what most never saw coming on Wednesday night, Die Wolfe stunned the 10 time European champions 2-0 in the first leg at the Volkswagen Arena. This gives the German side the advantage ahead of the return leg next Tuesday.
Many didn’t envisage a Wolfsburg victory and this sent shock waves across the football world but is this victory really a shock? Are Wolfsburg a mediocre team that they can’t get a win in their own backyard against a giant?
It’s a common thing for the media and football lovers to get carried away by the wind and not focus on some details. That is exactly what happened in this game. Some claim Zinedine Zidane’s side took Wolfsburg for granted and therefore paid the price. If attention was paid to details, then it would have been known that this tie was never going to be an easy ride for Real Madrid.
It is no small feat that Wolfsburg finished top of Group B which had three time champions Manchester United in it. It’s worth noting that Dieter Hecking’s men have not lost at home in the Champions League this season. It was this strong home form that placed them as favourites for their final group game against the Red Devils which they emphatically won 3-2 thus condemning Louis van Gaal’s side to the Europa League.
Wolfsburg finished second in the Bundesliga last season and this didn’t come cheap either. The Wolves beat eventual winners Bayern Munich 4-1 in the return league game and the performance drew plaudits from all over the place. Though Pep Guardiola’s men have had the better of team from Lower Saxony this season plus they are not in the same territory they were last term, they have still remained solid.
Wolfsburg have over the years always assembled a strong squad. Who could forget Edin Dzeko who was instrumental to their Bundesliga triumph in 2009? Since then others like Mario Mandzukic, Diego, Ivan Perisic and Kevin de Bruyne have all moved to bigger clubs. Their current squad is composed of experience and youth that is good enough to do damage to any team. Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio has become one of most experienced shot stoppers in the German top flight since moving from Portuguese club C.D. Nacional in 2008. In defence there’s the Brazilian duo of Naldo and Dante who are among the finest centre backs in the Bundesliga. In Midfield is ex-Bayern Munich man Luis Gustavo who has a lot of caps under his belt for the Selecao.
Let’s not forget World Cup winner Andre Schurrle who is very agile and a thorn in the flesh. Julian Draxler was one of the stand out players of the night on Wednesday as he used is pace time and time again to trouble Real’s backline. He is one of the bright prospects in European football and to be at Wolfsburg rather than one of the continent’s giants is to their advantage. Draxler combined with other young players like Maximilian Arnold, Ricardo Rodriguez and Robin Knoche do not put Wolfsburg as a minnow at all.
It is also worth mentioning that Germany isn’t a place to get easy victories. Looking at other German sides in the Champions League this season bar Bayern Munich, they all looked strong on home turf. Barcelona could only secure a 1-1 draw at Bayer Leverkusen while oil rich Manchester City had to work their socks off to secure a 2-1 win at Borussia Monchengladbach in a game Die Fohlen dominated. They were able to force a draw against Serie A champions Juventus while they thumped Europa League winners Sevilla 4-2.
No German side regardless of status should be treated as an underdog in their backyard. Real Madrid should have taken caution before this tie but with the disadvantage they are in, it makes the second leg much tougher even if it’s in Spain because Wolfsburg would do everything in their power not to let their precious two goal lead slip. Should Hecking’s side progress to the semis, surely the remaining sides left in the competition will be weary of Volkswagen run outfit.