Dieter Hecking is eagerly anticipating Wolfsburg’s UEFA Europa League last-eight meeting with Napoli as the start of a run of hugely important fixtures for his side.
Wolfsburg host their Serie A counterparts in the first leg on Thursday – the first of five matches in 14 days across three competitions for Hecking’s men.
Sandwiched between the two games against Napoli, Wolfsburg take on Schalke in the Bundesliga as they look to increase their hold on second place.
Following the conclusion of the Europa League tie, they return to league action against fellow high-fliers Borussia Monchengladbach, before a DFB-Pokal semi-final with Arminia Bielefeld.
“We’re concentrating on our future engagements, the crossroads of the season,” Hecking said.
“The next five matches are the most beautiful and exciting of the season. We can not stop, we have to look forward every game. At the end of the season we’ll see where we are.”
The last time Wolfsburg reached this stage of the Europa League was in 2010, when they were knocked out 3-1 on aggregate by eventual runners-up Fulham.
They booked their place in the last eight with a 5-2 aggregate success over Napoli’s Serie A rivals Inter, while their opponents were similarly comfortable in seeing off Dinamo Moscow 3-1.
Hecking’s side come into the clash in fine form, having lost only once in their previous 23 outings in all competitions.
Their record at home is equally formidable, with nine straight wins at the Volkswagen Arena and no defeats since a 2-0 reverse to Everton in the group stages back in November.
By contrast, Napoli’s form away from home is much less impressive.
Rafael Benitez’s side have won none of their last five games away from the Stadio San Paolo, scoring just one goal in the process.
They sit fourth in Serie A and, seven points adrift of Roma, winning this year’s competition perhaps represents their best chance of making a return to the UEFA Champions League next season.
Benitez, who this week has been touted as a possible replacement for Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City next season, is bidding to become the first manager to win this competition with three different sides.
The Spaniard – celebrating his 55th birthday on Thursday – lifted the trophy with Valencia in 2004, before further success with Chelsea in 2013.
He will have to make do without the services of Walter Gargano, who remains sidelined with a thigh injury, while Wolfsburg have Aaron Hunt missing due to a knee problem.
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