Hakan Calhanoglu urged Bayer 04 Leverkusen to quickly get over their UEFA Champions League disappointment and focus on Saturday's Matchday 16 encounter with in-form Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Goals: 0-1 Messi (20'); 1-1 Chicharito (23')
Frustrated following Die Werkself's valiant display against FC Barcelona, which was rewarded with a place in the Europa League, the Turkey star is determined to now ensure Leverkusen's Bundesliga campaign picks up momentum.
Question: Hakan Calhanoglu, Leverkusen had such a good opportunity out there against Barcelona, but unfortunately the draw means you won't be in the Champions League after the winter break. How do you feel about that?
Hakan Calhanoglu: It's just a real shame that we couldn't score another goal. We lacked a touch of coolness in the box, but despite that, I have to praise my team-mates. We played really well against Barcelona and created a lot of chances, particularly in the second half. Unfortunately though, we just couldn't seem to take them. We certainly should have, and when you don’t score it’s always going to be a lot harder to qualify. We were a bit unlucky today, although saying that, I felt that we needed to be a bit better in possession going forward and should have waited a bit longer to see what would happen in and around the box. We needed to keep our cool slightly more. We knew that Marc-Andre ter Stegen [Barcelona goalkeeper] was excellent and he proved that with his save from 'Chicharito' [Javier Hernandez] at the end.
Question: There were a lot of chances wasted today though, yourself included…
Calhanoglu: Yes, it's fair to say I haven't been at my best over the last few weeks and I know that I haven't played that well. But still, I always try to give my best for my team every day. I still feel we took a step forward and I’ll continue trying to help the team.
'Gladbach playing really well at the moment'
Question: There are some really good sides in the Europa League this year, mind you…
Calhanoglu: I'd correct that actually: there are some excellent teams in this season's Europa League. We're really looking forward to it. It's obviously a shame not to be in the Champions League, but we're excited regardless and we want to put on a good show when we start in that.
Question: In the last few games, we've heard a lot that Leverkusen have played well and dominated in parts but have still ended up either losing or disappointed. Was it a similar story today and are you therefore frustrated not to still be in the Champions League?
Calhanoglu: I wouldn't say we left the field as losers today. We're now in the Europa League in the New Year, which is also a really good tournament, and so, as I said, in the meantime we just need to hopefully find our shooting boots. We were good at the back today and very solid. Jonathan [Tah], Ömer [Toprak] and everyone else did a good job defensively. Sometimes in games like this one, you just need a little bit of luck to find the net. All in all, I'd say we put in a very good performance, but now we need to focus on Gladbach at the weekend. That's a really, really important game for us now because we want to work ourselves . For that reason, we need to forget about this one and focus completely on Gladbach.
Question: Gladbach are in really good form and will be a really tough test, though. They've been on an amazing run of late…
Calhanoglu: Yeah, they certainly have. They're playing really well at the moment as everyone can see. They’re in good form but there are definitely positives to take into Saturday from this game against Barcelona.
Daniel Thacker reporting from the BayArena