Piraeus - His starting berth for Schalke 04 at Olympiacos in their Champions League group stage opener came as a surprise to some, but Tranquillo Barnetta fully justified coach Huub Stevens' confidence in him - to the extent of being voted UEFA's Man of the Match as the Royal Blues secured a vital 2-1 victory on the Greek champions' own turf in Piraeus.

In interview with bundesliga.com the Swiss attacking midfielder, who swapped Leverkusen for Gelsenkirchen over the summer, talked about Schalke's hard-earned victory and the competition for places in the team.


bundesliga.com: Tranquillo Barnetta, your first starting appearance for Schalke 04 this season could hardly have gone better, could it?

Tranquillo Barnetta: No, that's for sure. To win the game in a stadium like this, with that kind of atmosphere, really is something special. It wasn't easy, but it's a very important three points for us.

bundesliga.com: How do you manage to shut out such a vociferous backdrop?

Barnetta: Every one of us was totally focused on the job in hand. If you can do that, it works. Obviously you hear it when the noise level shoots up. But we dealt really well with the tricky moments - when they equallised, and then when we missed the penalty. And we deserved the win in the end.

bundesliga.com: Were you a bit surprised yourself to be in the starting line-up?

Barnetta: I wasn't surprised, because I always hope to be playing from the start. The coach has said all along that with the strength in depth in the squad, one or other player is going to have to take a turn on the bench. There's a policy of rotation.

bundesliga.com: You even won the official UEFA Man of the Match award...

Barnetta: Yes, I heard that and obviously I'm very happy about it. But I try to give it my best every time I go out onto the pitch. I had a chance to score and it's annoying that I didn't, but all-in-all I'm very satisfied. Most of all about the fact that we won.

bundesliga.com: And was that the perfect boost as well ahead of the weekend showdown with Bayern Munich?

Barnetta: It's always difficult to think about the next game just after you've finished playing. First we need a bit of recovery time, then from Wednesday onwards it'll be all about the game against FC Bayern. It goes without saying that we want to win in front of of our own fans.

bundesliga.com: And will the Veltins Arena be the same kind of cauldron for that game as the Karaiskakis Stadium was for this one?

Barnetta: Yes, I think we can assume that.

Michael Reis reporting from Piraeus