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Wolfsburg football ready to take ‘one final chance’

Berlin (AFP) – Wolfsburg midfielder Luiz Gustavo insisted the Bundesliga strugglers are well equipped to avoid relegation ahead of Thursday’s first leg of their play-off against neighbours Eintracht Braunschweig.

Tensions are running high ahead of the derby showdown with Braunschweig, who are eyeing a return to Germany’s top flight after finishing third in the second division.

“We have the quality and the mentality. We have this chance and we must take it,” said Gustavo, who joined Wolfsburg from Bayern Munich in 2013.

“This isn’t just about football, it’s about the region and the derby, and the whole background behind these two clubs.

“We’re in this situation because we have kept making mistakes, which you simply shouldn’t make, but we know we can play good football. We get on well as a squad and we really want this.

“We have one final chance and we must take it,” the Brazilian added.

Just 35 kilometres separate the two cities and while police will be on high alert, the mayors of both Wolfsburg and Braunschweig have issued a joint appeal for “two high-class and peaceful celebrations of football”.

Police have already said fans wearing Braunschweig’s yellow and blue colours will only be allowed in the away section at Wolfsburg’s Volkswagen Arena.

Wolfsburg, who lost to Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of last season’s Champions League, will then travel to Braunschweig next Monday for the return fixture.

The Wolves finished 16th in the Bundesliga following a 2-1 defeat to relegation rivals Hamburg on the final day of the season.

The club have also gone through three coaches this term — Dieter Hecking was sacked in October and his replacement Valerien Ismael was fired in February when current boss Andries Jonker took charge.

Financed by 100 million euros ($112.3m) from car manufacturing giants Volkswagen, Wolfsburg’s funding is more than six times that of the backing Braunschweig receive.

But despite a squad including the likes of Germany striker Mario Gomez, the 2009 German champions are faced with the prospect of crashing out of the top tier.

“Football is brutal. Now we have got what we deserve — an extra round of matches!” said Gomez following Saturday’s defeat at Hamburg.

Dutchman Jonker took his players on a retreat to the Netherlands to prepare for the two-legged tie, drawing a mocking response from Braunschweig coach Torsten Lieberknecht.

“We’ve decided to act normally,” replied Lieberknecht. “There are enough beautiful and quiet places in Braunschweig.

“We’re relaxed and tense at the same time, it has something of a cup game about it,” he added, as Braunschweig look to return to the Bundesliga for the first time since 2013/14.

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