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 33 is here, and the Bundesliga coaches have been giving their pre-match thoughts.
Freiburg v VfL Wolfsburg
Christian Streich: “Wolfsburg’s system will be a different one. I thought at first that they wouldn’t lose again after our game. Anything is possible at Wolfsburg. They are a team that are hard to play against. They have pace and physicality.
“If we manage to win on Friday then the others will have to follow suit. The season isn’t over yet and we want to play well regardless of the circumstances.”
Niko Kovac: “We’ve all played in Freiburg many times. This will be my first time in the new stadium but I’m assuming the atmosphere will be good there too. We’re certainly not the favourites going into the game; we’ll have to really push ourselves and we’ll need a bit of luck to make sure the match goes our way. Having said that, we’re going there with a positive feeling. We’ve played a lot of good games in the last few weeks. That’s what we want to do tomorrow in Freiburg as well.
“That game [the 6-0 reverse fixture] took place at the start of January and it was the first one after the long break for the World Cup. A lot has happened since then. Even just in terms of tactics a few things are different for both teams, so you can’t compare the two games. It’ll be a completely new game, there’s not a lot you can take into it from the reverse fixture.
“We want to play in Europe. That’s our objective and we’re not deviating from it. We’re in sixth place for the first time this season and we want to stay there, even if it’ll be anything but easy to do so. Now we’ve got a really tough away game to play because it’s no accident that Freiburg are up there.”
Hoffenheim v Union Berlin
Pellegrino Matarazzo: “There is a great desire to get over the line. We have the opportunity to do just that on Saturday. It is not just up to us, but we can take a very big step towards that. We want to celebrate staying in the Bundesliga at the weekend. We have to recognise that there is no time left for talk. We have to stand up and take advantage of our opportunity. All the players have to bring positive energy out on to the pitch.
“Every team struggles to play attractive football against Union. They are a very unique opponent, so we will need a robust performance. Union have achieved a great deal in recent years. They are defensively compact and are very good on the counter. Union are strong in set piece situations. It is no coincidence that they are so high up in the table – they have continued to evolve greatly.”
Urs Fischer: “This will be an interesting game with a lot at stake for both teams. Hoffenheim have stabilised in recent weeks and won three of their last four home games. In addition, they are good on the break, and have some players who can make the difference. It will be a challenge for us.”
Hertha Berlin v VfL Bochum
Pal Dardai: “I couldn’t understand how we could show a completely different performance in Cologne than we did against Stuttgart. That’s why there was a very honest analysis earlier this week that may have hurt some. Then we continued to work with great concentration. There was always a good mood in the dressing room, and I can’t complain about the team’s work ethic either.
“I also don’t feel that any of us are shaking or seeming unsafe. But it only counts on game day. We know where we are, that it’s no longer in our hands and that we can lose a lot. Because of this, we need to sharpen up and be awake, turning the negativity into positivity. We’ll try to tease that out, give everything and be dangerous.
“Bochum have their own style – with a lot of long passes from the goalkeeper to Hofmann, and then they always go for the second ball. That’s why we didn’t practice a classic midfield pressing this week, but mainly focused on the opponent’s style of play. We prepared ourselves for how to get out well, break away and chase the ball.”
Thomas Letsch: “A certain tension is there, for sure. At the weekend, the first decisions of the season can be made. On the last match day we have put ourselves in a great position, and now we want to make the most of this opportunity. We feel a huge sense of anticipation – especially when I hear how many fans will be making their way to Berlin to support us.
“Our fans are sensational. The city, the team, the fans – everyone sticks together. Our fans have supported us very vociferously in every away game so far. That will certainly be the case in Berlin, too. We are all very happy about that. Everyone is eager to give something back to our fantastic fans and to put in the best performance possible.
“The situation is clear: Hertha needs a win. We have thought about what can happen in the course of the game. Now we are relatively clear on the strategy. It’s the penultimate game of the season. A very important game.”
Schalke v Eintracht Frankfurt
Thomas Reis: “For me it is important that you are brave and enjoy the game. We know it’s our last home game and we know what position we can put ourselves in. We have to be smart and come out stronger from the last defeat.
“Frankfurt has a strong team with a lot of pace. Of course, the demands are high there when you’ve been so successful. They are now in a final again. It is important to be wide awake and definitely not to underestimate the opponent.
“I think it’s sensational what the fans are doing again with the planned choreography. They too have faith in our goal. We want to make sure tomorrow that we have a fortress here and keep the three points here.”
Oliver Glasner: “Schalke always make things incredibly difficult for their opponents. They’re not a team who go into games with caution but are always very aggressive and force their opponents into a lot of duels. They also had too many goalscoring opportunities in our first game – despite our 3-0 win – because they’re simply really difficult to defend against. I’m really looking forward to the atmosphere. There’s a lot at stake for both teams, so I expect a highly emotional and a very intense game. That’s how we’ll approach it.
“Almost all teams still have something to play for: the title, a relegation battle or the European places. The circumstances are ideal for two exciting final matchdays. A lot can still happen. Particularly in periods like this, our experienced players need to stand up and be counted. It’s hugely important that our experienced players are fit when it counts and can step up as leaders.”
Werder Bremen v Köln
Ole Werner: “The week was relatively short, I think that felt good after the game in Leipzig. The atmosphere in the team is good, there was a lot of excitement in training in the last few days. Köln brings power and physicality with them. That’s why I’m also happy that the personnel situation has improved again. Because we want to score points on Saturday and ideally also achieve our goal for the season.”
Steffen Baumgart: “I expect a highly emotional game. There is a great atmosphere in Bremen. I expect a full stadium and a positive atmosphere. We want to be successful, play our game and win in Bremen.”
Bayern Munich v RB Leipzig
Thomas Tuchel: “We know Leipzig’s strengths. If we want to control the game, it’s important to prevent counterattacks before they happen. If we go freely and aggressively into the attacking zone, we have to protect ourselves. We want to do it, as many as possible Letting players attack freely. We have to get the mix right. It’s challenging.
“It’s not routine. Normally, the titles were often clear earlier. The situation in the table is not routine. The best recipe is that we think about our tasks. We have a difficult opponent in front of our chest. We want to make it into a good performance. For us, the only thing that counts is tomorrow’s win.”
Marco Rose: “Bayern are a top team with many strong individual players . They always have a good coach on the sidelines who tries to get the best out of the team and group tactics . They also set many tasks: their power, their depth, their game in the centre We have to defend all of that, but we also have to look for our chances offensively . You can’t let yourself be crushed against Bayern , we always have to get the ball .
I think that Bayern’s line-up was not always constant. Struggling with their self-image in the last few weeks, they have had problems again and again, but are slowly regaining their old strength . Now it’s our job to find the little problems of the last few weeks.
“It’s important that we act with self-confidence and at the same time accept that we can never eliminate Bayern completely. You have to be brave in Munich, be convincing in every situation, both offensively and defensively.”
Mainz v VfB Stuttgart (Sunday)
Bo Svensson: “It’s our last home game and we want to give a good account of ourselves! We’ve had a full week to speak about certain things so that we can improve on our performances. We want to finish the season on a high and go into the summer break on the back of some positive results.”
Sebastian Hoeneβ: “We are not dealing with any scenarios. We are looking at how we can manage to win against Mainz. We’re going there to get three points. I am convinced that the team is well prepared for what awaits them in Mainz on Sunday. It will be a game in which you have to fight to establish your style of football. Mainz is difficult to play against, but we also have qualities that we can use to cause problems for the opponent.”
Augsburg v Borussia Dortmund (Sunday)
Enrico Maaβen: “BVB has a lot of individual quality, especially in the offensive area, and can regulate a lot as a result. For us, it is important to implement exactly what we have planned. Everything positive that we have already shown, we need to be in top form. Dortmund are the best team in the second half of the season. Nevertheless, we tripped up a lot of big teams at home and want to stay in the league on our own. To do this, we have to be brave and as greedy with the ball as we were against Union.
“We want to stay where we are, we’ve done well with that so far. The disappointment from the last game is there. We have clearly addressed internally what we need to improve in order to take the next step in the long term. It’s still too early to draw conclusions, there’s still a decisive step to be taken with staying up in the league. Nevertheless, we’ve developed a real strength at home and have developed further as a team.”
Edin Terzic: “Augsburg is a team that fights for every point until the end. We noticed that here when we were in the lead three times and still had to tremble until the end until we bagged the points. They always try to engage the opponent in duels. They also created an atmosphere in the stadium and on the bench that can get very heated. We have to be prepared for that.
“It hasn’t happened here for a long time that we can still play so much and achieve the really big thing before the 33rd matchday. I’m happy to see so many boys and girls in BVB jerseys in Dortmund, that the flags are again hanging in the front yards. We wanted people to be excited to see us play again. We’ve achieved that in the past few home games in particular, but that was only part of the goal. The big goal is still waiting for us in eight days.”
Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Mönchengladbach (Sunday)
Xabi Alonso: ““After last night’s match we were sad, but we wanted to get close to the fans directly and show our appreciation. This energy doesn’t have to disappear. We want to keep it in our stadium. We need it for Sunday. If we want to be successful in the future, we have to continue on our way. We want to have more nights like last night. That’s why we play football.
“We are taking a lot of positive things with us for our development: The mentality of the team, the desire to fight, the high level of concentration and the outstanding unity between the team and the fans – that was ‘special’. The support of the fans before, during and after the game was fantastic. I felt they were proud of us. I saw that feeling. And that is important! Of course we are sad, but we have to move on. There are some tired players but no new injuries to complain about.”
Daniel Farke: “I’m not responsible for rumours and speculation and don’t take such things personally. I think it’s very important as a head coach to move forward even in uncertain times and not deviate from the things you stand for. My full focus is on my team. We will finish the season in the mid-table, but every place is important. Anything is possible for us between ninth and 13th place. We want to have two more successful games and climb as high as possible in the table.
“We are not dependent on a certain basic formation. My main priority is that our game and our principles are recognisable. The formation serves to help you implement your playing style in the best possible way. Therefore, the goal is to always be flexible. It’s not a secret that our players feel more comfortable in a back-four, and when I look back to our home games against Leipzig, Bayern and Dortmund, we were very solid and compact with a back-four. We’re also in a position, however, to switch things up and play with a back-three. This always depends on our squad as well as on the opposition.