Know your Enemy: VFL Wolfsburg Frauen

As far as women’s football goes, VfL Wolfsburg are royalty. Multiple winners of the Frauen Bundesliga. Two-time winners of the Women’s Champions League. Seven times the winner of the DFB Pokal trophy. And of course, three-time slayers of the Blues in European competition. The Wolves are the top dogs in Germany alongside potential semifinal opponents FC Bayern. They have a plethora of world-class players, a top manager and a wealth of experience at this level.

VFL Wolfsburg Interview.
Edit by @ketherinantoni

In order to find out more details about the current 2nd placed team in Frauen Bundesliga, I posed some questions to Jasmina Schweimler, guru on all things German women’s football and VfL Wolfsburg reporter since 2016 ahead of this huge tie.

Can you briefly summarise Wolfsburg’s domestic campaign so far – are you achieving as much as expected? Have performances been up to standard?

Wolfsburg are currently second in the league (five points behind Bayern), having won 14 games, one draw, and one loss. They’re in the German Cup semifinals where they face Bayern up next and are therefore realistically still in the run for all three titles. Nobody really knew what to expect ahead of the season.

The club lost important key players like Sara Gunnarsdottir, Noelle Maritz and Pernille Harder. But personally, I believe they adapted quick, especially after they also had to face a lot of injuries: Ewa Pajor was out due to a knee surgery, Sara Doorsoun suffered a knee injury in the Champions League final in August, Pauline Bremer tore her ACL at the start of the season. They’ve also had to integrate new players at the start and in the middle of the season. These include Lena Oberdorf, Kathrin Hendrich, Katarzyna Kiedrzynek, Pauline Bremer, Shanice van de Sanden, Karina Saevik, Sofie Svava, Rebecka Blomqvist just to name a few…

The games are often a lot more tighter right now, but VfL still manages to win in the end which shows that the winning mentality needed to succeed is still there.

Stephan Lerch, VFL Wolfsburg Head Coach.
Stephan Lerch has already reached the UWCL Final before. Image Credit: Getty Images.

What’s your opinion on Stephan Lerch? Obviously, I know he’s been quite vocal on his views on Pernille Harder’s transfer. How do you think he compares to Emma Hayes?

I don’t think you can really compare coaches. They’re both doing great jobs with their teams and are really invested in helping the game grow. They are outspoken and are well respected in what they do.

On the topic of the Danish superstar, How have Wolfsburg reacted and changed since losing Pernille Harder to Chelsea last year? Do you think they are a better or worse side overall now? Who has stepped up to fill the void in terms of goalscoring and creating this season? Who are the key dangers for Chelsea to be aware of during the UWCL tie?

I think they are doing just fine considering the big changes I discussed above.

The only thing that changed is the fact that the responsibility is now on more shoulders. Pernille was the gamechanger for Wolfsburg, now more players step up to fill that role.

Lena Oberdorf is the player that comes to my mind. She’s only 19 years old and is playing her first senior season for VfL Wolfsburg. She takes a lot of responsibility on the pitch, has an incredible presence on the field and is not afraid to go one versus one with a player. She doesn’t hesitate to help in the back but is also very dangerous upfront. Zsanett Jakabfi is the top scorer across all competitions for VfL Wolfsburg this season with 16 goals. She has enormous experience and is a player that probably doesn’t get enough credit. When given the chance she is incredibly clinic in front of goal.

Alexandra Popp is dangerous in the air when it comes to headers. Lena Goeßling, Dominique Janssen and Felicitas Rauch have all proven to be on point with their penalties, freekicks and corners.

Svenja Huth is a very modern playmaker, often finds and makes the space to serve her teammates. But she’s also a player you need to take care of as well considering her pace and the way she can read and anticipate the game. And then there’s Ewa Pajor who just returned from injury and is as hungry as ever. Feeding her with a long pass or long ball often results in the defensive line becoming overrun. It almost always ends in a goal or at least an opportunity.

Lena Obderdorf is a tremendous player for the She-Wolves.
Oberdorf is one of Germany’s biggest talents. Image Credit: M. Hitij/Getty Images.

Do you think the winner of this tie could conceivably go and win the entire tournament?

Absolutely. But I do think that every team that makes it to the next round now could potentially win it all. The women’s game has grown so much in certain leagues and it already showed during last season’s Champions League ties.

It’s not like just two teams have “all the stars”. It’s way more balanced now and every team has great qualities within their rosters. It makes the competition more exciting and this type of competition is also needed in order for the game to keep growing.

And finally: Who do you think are favourites for the tie overall?

Based on the numbers and experience, Wolfsburg are probably considered favourites.

Personally, to me, this is a very open match up though. Chelsea have a whole different mentality and a stronger team since they last faced each other three years ago. It will be a difficult match for Wolfsburg, who don’t always get challenged so much defensively in the Frauen-Bundesliga. They have to be spot on against Chelsea who will bring a lot to the table with players like Fran Kirby, Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder for example. Melanie Leupolz is also a player you should never underestimate. The whole team is very balanced. Chelsea are also very strict in the back and have a real leader in Magda Eriksson, I’m a big fan of her.

Thanks very much to Jasmina Schweimler for her time and insight into VfL Wolfsburg Frauen. You can follow her @JasSchweimler on Twitter. If you want to find out more about the UWCL tie and about Chelsea’s prospects, you can check out our preview too.

Written and edited by Rob Pratley (@RJPJournalism)

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