As the legendary former national team trainer Sepp Herberger once said: “Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel” (after the game is before the game). One game finishes, and another arrives hot on its heels. Matchday 26 is here, and the Bundesliga coaches have been giving their pre-match thoughts.
Borussia Dortmund v Union Berlin
Edin Terzic: “It’s been two weak performances from us. Leipzig in particular was disappointing. We looked at things that we urgently need to change in order to perform differently tomorrow. We still have a competition and we want to play a good role in it.
“Union have a very strong defensive line on the field. It’s not easy to create a lot of chances against Union. We have to see free spaces and occupy them. Being courageous on the ball and supporting each other, that’s what matters.
“Gregor Köbel is currently one of the best goalkeepers in the league and in Europe. He was the reason why the result on Wednesday was still tight for a long time. That didn’t surprise us. We not only know how hard-working he is, but also how good he is.”
Urs Fischer: “Dortmund have a very stable team with a clear plan. They get into the spaces between their opponents lines well, always provoking mistakes.
“In addition, they always give everything, put in a lot of effort and their switching game is also one of their strengths. This will be a very difficult task for us, where we absolutely have to play to our limits and need a top performance.”
Bayer Leverkusen v Eintracht Frankfurt
Xabi Alonso: “I’m not looking back at the last few months, I’m looking ahead. I’m happy with the development of the team. We have become more stable and have internalized the basics for our game idea. The first game was a very good lesson for us. Our performance was poor, so we can’t play like that. The energy in the team is different right now, but it will still be a tough task.
“Eintracht is one of the best teams in the league. We prepared well all week and had the time to train intensively. I’m satisfied and I have the feeling that the team is ready for tomorrow.”
Oliver Glasner: “Leverkusen are in really good shape. They look solid and are probably the fastest side alongside Bayern. That said, we’ve identified ways we can beat them in our analysis. That’s our goal.
“We need to be solid at the back and keep the spaces very tight. Leverkusen are always on the lookout for moments to transition and they score a lot of goals on the counter – which is when their pace comes to the fore. We need to strike a good balance and need to maintain constant focus.
“As far as results are concerned, we’ve turned the corner just in time for the sunny weather. You need to experience success. The lads are always very critical of their own performances, but they’re also incredibly motivated to do better and achieve good results.
“Crunch time is upon us. We’ve got fewer and fewer games. As such, every game is significant and can have immediate repercussions. Our approach doesn’t change, though.”
Freiburg v Bayern Munich
Christian Streich: “We have a certain amount of confidence, but it’s also important that we have to know the task we will be facing both mentally and physically. We can’t be too overjoyed; we have to be clear and we want to put in a great performance.
“It’s not the biggest game for us because the expectations against such an opponent are lower. Every player has to get into his zone and focus fully. We must not allow ourselves to be distracted. The game is the biggest challenge for us again, three days after we had the biggest challenge.”
Thomas Tuchel: “We need a reaction. There were positive things in the game [Pokal v Freiburg] too. We’re eliminated and we have to accept that, but we also have positive things. Both the performance, the will and the willingness were enough to dominate the game. We didn’t actually allow anything and were punished with two long-range shots.
“Freiburg defended it very compactly. In the possible moments we sometimes lacked the necessary precision. There were also a lot of good things that we will dare to show. We’re missing a bit of the last pass, a bit of trust, lightness and therefore creativity. One can call it form, the self-understanding. It only comes back if we stay positive, even if we are very reluctant to live with the result.
“The inconsistency is there. Nevertheless, I would like to allow myself not to see a pattern in it yet. We put in a lot of effort, defended diligently and allowed the minimum. Defeat looks different from what we allowed. We concede too many goals. Nevertheless, I would like to get involved in drawing positive things from it.
“We want to take the next step in Freiburg. The situation in the Bundesliga is such that we have to step up our game because the lead is extremely tight. The next knockout game is on Tuesday.”
Mainz v Werder Bremen
Bo Svensson: “I’m extremely pleased that the stadium will be full. The boys have earned it, but a sold-out stadium puts a task on us, because we want everyone to come back.
“Sitting back? I think that when you do something well, it should be much more of a motivation to repeat it and reward yourselves again. In Leipzig, the whole team worked and were active throughout the entire game. That’s difficult, but it’s also the benchmark and our expectation.
“We’re not just trying to play average football here, we want to get better. This way it’s more enjoyable, even if it can’t be like that every day, but we will try in every game, also on Saturday. I don’t see any danger of us letting up at all and I see the boys at the same level as recently. The team are very clear in their attitude.”
Ole Werner: “We don’t want to pretend there are no problems, but we also don’t want to make them bigger than they are. We will keep going the way we are, recognising weaknesses and then working on the solutions.
“After the winter break we had two really bad games, and after that we were at least on par in some but still couldn’t win. Now we have to reap the rewards for the work we put in.”
Augsburg v Köln
Enrico Maaßen: “We need to play to our best and want to get the fans on our side. There’s nothing better than taking points off your immediate competitors in the table.
“Köln are a team that play with a lot of intensity. They deliver the most crosses of any side in the league and were the better team against Gladbach last weekend.
“The team also need to remain in control after taking the lead and pose problems for their opponent. The way in which we’re presenting ourselves in every game has been exceptional. The fact that we take the lead so often is something that we’ve gotten good at.”
Steffen Baumgart: “Augsburg strengthened again during the winter break. I don’t think every club could afford that. They act clearly and distinctly in their actions. In the last two games they conceded the equalizer late, otherwise Augsburg would have been even better. That shows how strong they are right now.
“Their strength, of course, comes from their mentality and aggressiveness. Augsburg is one of the teams that do it best. That will be the focus. In the past away games, we lacked this mentality and aggressiveness in the direct duels, that will be important on Saturday. Augsburg has a good structure that always finds ways to go on the offensive. It will be a difficult undertaking for us.
“What the boys show in training is not the performance that the boys sometimes bring to the pitch in games, especially when it comes to scoring goals. Still, it’s about moving on. In recent games, the opposing goalkeeper was often the best man on the pitch. That shows that we have options”
Hertha Berlin v RB Leipzig
Sandro Schwarz: “I watched Leipzig’s cup game. They were very aggressive, especially in the first half, won a lot of good balls, put in an impressive performance overall and showed their outstanding individual qualities on the pitch. It didn’t come as a complete surprise to us that they came up with a back three.
“Above all, their counter-pressing and the way they win back the balls in the centre are an absolute stylistic device. We have to adjust to that. In addition, it becomes very important to play straight. If we make mistakes in the first few sequences while in possession, they will punish it mercilessly.
“What we showed against Freiburg is the basis for what we need on Saturday. It’s a good feeling to be back at home and backed by 50,000 fans. The expectations we place on ourselves are to stay with us, focus on what matters most, show maximum willingness, and give everything we have to have a chance at results.
“As the last duel with Leipzig showed, we can also create chances if we’re energetic and active. We have to use that in such a way that we pull the course of the game on our side against such a top opponent. This consistency is necessary in all phases of the game.”
Marco Rose: “We won an important game against Dortmund and we’re delighted to have made the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal. Now we’re back to Bundesliga action. We need every point we can get, so we need to build on Wednesday night.
“Tomorrow will be a completely different game. They will look to remain really solid at the back and we will need patience. We need a different mindset and everybody needs to be aware of that. We will just try to play our own game.
“Sandro Schwarz and I are best mates. We are very close, but we both want to get the win tomorrow.”
Borussia Mönchengladbach v VfL Wolfsburg (Sunday)
Daniel Farke: “We have a home game and to be honest we’ve played a lot of good home games this season. We want to build on that, show a good game and achieve a good result. Wolfsburg has a clear idea and a clear handwriting under Niko Kovac. The team brings a lot of talent and a high offensive quality. We need a really good performance to score against them. We look forward to the game.
Niko Kovac: “It doesn’t get any easier. Against Gladbach, who are somehow still in our area, we now have the opportunity to finally say: If we win, we should be in ninth place and could move forward. Despite the results we got at home, we saw a lot of progress. We haven’t lost in five successive games – and that can easily continue at the weekend.
“Basically, I’m convinced that Gladbach have a really good team and a good coach who has a lot of experience abroad. The past has certainly been very good and it’s not easy to be successful for ten years in a row. I still stand by the fact that Borussia have a strong team that should actually have a lot more points than they currently have. That’s why I won’t be fooled by the place in the table and the current form. I know how difficult it is to play in Gladbach. It is therefore the full focus on this game. We clearly have to stretch ourselves to take something with us there.”
VfL Bochum v VfB Stuttgart
Thomas Letsch: “We watched their cup game against Nürnberg. It was exciting to see. The basic order was different from that under Bruno Labbadia. Still, that doesn’t mean they’ll play like that against us. It was important to get a first impression of how the team acted under Sebastian Hoeneß.
“We know his work from Hoffenheim and are considering whether we can derive things from it. However, a lot is unknown. It is important that we stay with ourselves and focus fully on ourselves.
“We play against a direct competitor who is behind us. Accordingly, we go into the game with confidence, but also with a lot of respect. Of course, we look at the game plan and ask what could be enough. But it basically makes little sense. It is clear that every game is a chance to score. The earlier we score points, the less we have to calculate. As long as we score we will stay in the league. Then we have to calculate less.
“We want to get the fans in the stadium behind us. The atmosphere is great, we want to ignite something. This is how we approach the game. It is important to keep a cool head.”
Sebastian Hoeneß: “The feeling of being able to win is incredibly valuable and can’t be replaced. It’s important we carry this positive energy. It strengthens the team and provides confidence. But the match at Bochum has a very different character. We’re bottom but we have the chance on Sunday to improve our position in the table.
“We need to demonstrate structure and effort, be constantly awake and keep them away from our goal. At the same time, we also need to use our phases of possession, choose footballing approaches, keep the ball moving and make it hard for Bochum to get on the ball.”
Hoffenheim v Schalke
Pellegrino Matarazzo: “We’re up against a direct rival in the relegation battle. We want to build on the energy we’ve shown in the last two matches. The lads know what lies ahead and are up for the match. We want to deliver an amazing performance.
“Schalke are doing very well at the moment, they had an unbelievable run. They’re especially stable in defence and then switch quickly. We want to impose our game and shift the play into the opposition half. If we do that consistently, I’m very confident we can pick up the three points.
“Every triumph is a step towards our goal. We’ve improved our position in the table but we’re of course not satisfied with the situation. The lads can feel the trust and feel vindicated by the victories. You could see what we were trying to do offensively, but we were too passive in the second half. We need to improve upon that on Sunday.”
Thomas Reis: “It is on another level. The support from the fans is incredible. Everyone wants to do their bit to help us stay up. Receiving this support gets that extra couple of percent out of you.
“They [Hoffenheim] will play active football, are happy in possession and unbelievably dangerous upfront. It will be important for us to be brave as well. If you allow them to play it can become difficult. You have to cause them problems in behind.
“We had a similar situation with the games against Stuttgart and Bochum. There is pressure there, but it is now about focussing in exactly the same way that we did in those two games. It is in our own hands and we have the opportunity to keep ourselves up.”