Gelsenkirchen - After six weeks of inactivity over the winter break, FC Schalke 04 and Hannover 96 announced the Bundesliga's return to action in sensational style with a nine-goal spectacle on Friday evening.
The hosts eventually took the points in a 5-4 success, with Schalke midfielder Lewis Holtby instrumental in his side's first league win since Matchday 11. After the game, the England-bound star gave his thoughts on what was undoubtedly a fine advertisement for German football.
Question: Lewis Holtby, you were the key man with a goal and two assists tonight...
Lewis Holtby: The most important thing for me was for the team to pick up a win. The fact that I had a good game personally was the icing on the cake. I'm delighted and at the end of the day it doesn't matter how we did it. The main thing is that we got the points.
Question: The game was a real nail-biter…
Holtby: It was a totally crazy match. Overall it was a lot of fun, but the goals we conceded were poor and that's down to the team as a whole. We were compact at the back in the first half, but later on things got a bit more haphazard in defence. Fortunately we were always dangerous up front, though. After our slump [before the winter break] it was important to win a game like that - it was good for our confidence.
Question: How much unease was there amongst the team before the match?
Holtby: We tried to give each other confidence. The coach always kept things positive in order to keep our spirits up. We know outisders were slating us, but that's when it's especially important to stick together. We worked really intensively in our preparations, studied a lot of tactical things and improved our fitness. The coaching staff did a great job. The whole team was really up for the game and determined to win.
Question: Looking ahead, can Schalke afford to relax a bit more now?
Holtby: When you've been under as much pressure as we have, you can afford to relax more after an evening like that. But the season's still a long way from over and we need to keep going. We need to consolidate this display against Augsburg next week and pick up another three points. The ability to do that is the art of football. If we want to qualify for the Champions League again then we've got a lot of ground to make up, so we need to keep working hard.
Question: Speaking of working hard, you have a mental coach as well, don't you?
Holtby: I've been working with Sharon Paschke for a long time now. He's a good friend of mine, as well as being my mental coach and advisor. We talk a lot and do different things to help me stay focused on football for 90 minutes out on the pitch. It's very important to be mentally strong in football. It's something I'll keep doing in the future.
Question: Will you be sticking with Schalke until the summer? Or will you be joining Tottenham before the end of January?
Holtby: The people in charge will deal with that and we'll just have to wait and see what happens before 31 January. Against Hannover it was clear to see that I gave everything for Schalke and I'm not just going to leave without performing well here. I'll continue to do my best in every match. Everything else will be decided off the pitch by other people. Anything is possible.
Question: Despite your move to England having already been confirmed, the fans still cheered you on. Did you enjoy that?
Holtby: It was important for me that the whole team could feel the necessary support and that was definitely the case. The fans were right behind us even after we conceded. There were difficult moments, but they supported us. That was very positive. Of course I'm also very grateful that they supported me personally.
Compiled by Dietmar Nolte