Summary

  • Leverkusen tie up third and place in next season's Champions League group stage after Hertha win.
  • Kramer says winning run the key to belated march up the standings.
  • Excited to return to former Gladbach stomping ground next week.

Resurgent form and a dose of good fortune played their part as Bayer 04 Leverkusen secured their passage to the group stage of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League somewhat unexpectedly ahead of schedule, according to Christoph Kramer.

Speaking after helping Die Werkself put the seal on a third-placed finish with a 2-1 victory over Hertha Berlin, the Germany international midfielder explained the whys and wherefores of the Rhineland outfit's late-season revival, discussed his side's prospects of one day closing the gap on the Bundesliga's top two and looked ahead to next weekend's meeting with former club Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Question: Christoph Kramer, with two games to go, Leverkusen have achieved their goal of qualifying for next season's Champions League. Is it something you anticipated a few weeks back?

Christoph Kramer: No, definitely not. It's not what was expected.

Question: After you took an early 2-0 lead and Hertha reduced the arrears, it was a pretty tough game. What did you make of it?

Kramer: I don't think Hertha had a clear-cut chance, perhaps other than the shot from Alexander Baumjohann. It was a tense game. Anything can happen when you only have a one-goal lead, but we had chances through Stefan Kießling and a couple for Karim Bellarabi. We should have put it to bed earlier. Then it wouldn't have been so tense. We did well.

Victory over Hertha was Leverkusen's seventh successive win in the Bundesliga.

Question: What tipped the balance in Leverkusen's favour in the race for Champions League football?

Kramer: It was clear from the start that whoever went on a run would win the neck-and-neck race behind second place for the Champions League. We did that and deserve to finish third.

Question: Seven or eight weeks ago the atmosphere was completely different. What happened for you to be able to turn it around and come out of it so positively?

Kramer: It's hard to say exactly - not a lot happened. We had a bit of luck. Then we hit top form, which we really needed. We won games with a bit of luck on our side. We didn't have that earlier in the season.

"It will be difficult to match Bayern and Dortmund over an entire season" Christoph Kramer

Question: Nominally, Leverkusen are now the third best team in Germany. Are Bayern and Dortmund attainable for Bayer 04?

Kramer: That's a really tough question. After last season, I said it would be really difficult to catch Wolfsburg. For me, Wolfsburg were guaranteed second or third place. Now they're tenth and just lost 5-1 to Dortmund. It's going so well for Tuchel's Dortmund and Bayern that I think it will be difficult to match them over the course of an entire season.

Kramer spent two seasons on loan at Gladbach between 2013 and 2015.

Question: You can now go into next weekend's game against former club Mönchengladbach feeling pretty relaxed. What would you like to see happen for Borussia?

Kramer: I hope they finish fourth. We can play with the shackles off and see what comes of it. Gladbach are really strong at home.

Question: How special will it be for you to return to Mönchengladbach?

Kramer: I don't really get emotional. I'm really looking forward to playing there because BORUSSIA-PARK has one of the best atmospheres in the Bundesliga. I'm also looking forward to seeing my former team-mates again, but there's not really much riding on it for us.

Tobias Gonscherowski reporting from Leverkusen