VfL Wolfsburg start their 22nd Bundesliga season on home turf against FC Schalke 04 on Saturday (kick-off: 15:30 CEST), with the clear aim of turning the Volkswagen Arena into a fortress.
Schalke: disciplined and efficient
The visiting Royal Blues are uncomfortable opposition for most sides in the Bundesliga due to their defensive discipline – Domenico Tedesco's side only conceded 37 goals last season – and efficiency. Schalke might only have averaged 12 shots per game last season, but that didn't stop them scoring in each of their last 28 Bundesliga outings.
The resolute back line is further bolstered this season by ex-Hannover 96 centre-back Salif Sane – one of the Bundesliga's best defenders – while former Wolfsburg stalwart Naldo, who scored an impressive seven goals from the heart of a three-man defence as Schalke finished second last term, remains as tough as anyone in the league to get the better of aerially.
Ton up for Brooks
As well as Naldo, there are two further former Wolfsburg players in the Schalke ranks: Sascha Riether and Daniel Caligiuri, the latter of whom is set to make his 50th top-flight outing for the Gelsenkirchen side.
For VfL, John Anthony Brooks could reach a milestone of his own: if the former Hertha Berlin defender features, it will be his 100th Bundesliga appearance.
New arrivals up top
Schalke have brought in Mark Uth from Hoffenheim this summer to add some firepower; the Cologne native had a hand in 22 Bundesliga goals last term (14 goals, eight assists), more than anyone bar Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
Wolfsburg, however, have also been active in the transfer market to address 2017/18's struggles in front of goal (36 goals scored): Daniel Ginczek has arrived from VfB Stuttgart and Wout Weghorst from AZ Alkmaar. The Dutch striker found the net 27 times in all competitions last season, while Ginczek was on target on his debut in last weekend's DFB Cup win against SV Elversberg 07.
Slow starters Schalke
Schalke might boast the slightly better head-to-head record (W16 D15 L11), but Wolfsburg have come out on top eight times on home turf (D9 L4).
Although only one of the last nine meetings has ended in the Wolves' favour – a 3-0 victory in August 2015 – there is hope for Bruno Labbadia's troops this weekend: away from home on Bundesliga Matchday 1, Schalke have only won one of the last six games.