Dortmund - Borussia Dortmund made it six points out of six, eight goals scored and none conceded in 2013 as they cruised to a 3-0 home win against Nuremberg in Friday's Matchday 19 opener.
Alongside Jakub Blaszczykowski, whose brace set the champions on the road to victory, Ilkay Gündogan was one of the stand-out performers on the night, racking up a season-best 147 touches and completing 126 passes.
Speaking with bundesliga.com after the match, the 22-year-old Germany international put Dortmund's most recent successes down first and foremost to improved defensive stability, before looking ahead to the upcoming trip to Bayer Leverkusen.
bundesliga.com: Ilkay Gündogan, congratulations on the win and your own personal season record - 147 touches of the ball is quite impressive.
Ilkay Gündogan:(Laughs) It sounds pretty good, right enough. 147's not a bad tally, but I needed to be on the ball as much as possible, it was so cold. Seriously, though, that figure's down in part to the fact that Nuremberg were playing very deep and let us play in their own half. When that happens, you're going to see a lot of the ball. But if I'd had fewer touches and been able to deliver a few more dangerous passes up front, that would've been OK too.
bundesliga.com: Dortmund broke the deadlock quite early on, in the 18th minute...
Gündogan: The early goal definitely helped us. Nuremberg were sitting really deep, with the whole team in their own half. If you don't score in those circumstances you tend to get a bit impatient and maybe rush your passes a bit. So getting the penalty did just the job. All-in-all it wasn't a fireworks display, but then it doesn't always have to be. Sometimes it's nice to be able to take a more measured approach and have a slightly lower pulse rate.
bundesliga.com: Nuremberg's early chances probably didn't do much to slow your pulse though...
Gündogan: For the most part, we showed that we're very solid at the back again. Nuremberg had a big double chance near the start, but Roman [Weidenfeller] pulled off yet another great save. We've got an incredibly good keeper between the posts, and that's what he does. After we went in front though, it was all fairly one-sided. It felt like we had possession about 95 percent of the time.
bundesliga.com: In the first half of the season Dortmund at times struggled more in home games than on the road. Was that in the back of your minds going into the game against Nuremberg?
Gündogan: Not really, no. It's been a topic of debate, with reports that we're not as strong at home as we have been over the past couple of years, but none of that's affected us. We know our own strengths, and our own weaknesses as well. We never let ourselves get talked into having a complex about our home form.
bundesliga.com: Is the most important aspect of the games against Bremen and Nuremberg, that Dortmund have proven they're still secure at the back and capable of keeping a clean sheet?
Gündogan: I think you can look at it that way. That's also what we focused on during our winter preparations. We wanted to rediscover the stability, which was occasionally on show in the first half of the season. At times were weren't always 100 per cent alert defensively and gave away points as a result. Now we've started the second half of the season by scoring eight and conceding none in our first two games, which is a wonderful thing. It proves once again that we've got an exceptional attacking unit, bursting with enthusiasm, but we were always confident we possessed that quality. The important thing was that we had more stability at the back though.
bundesliga.com: What have Dortmund's defensive unit improved upon compared to the first half of the season?
Gündogan: It's often a question of concentration. What attitude do you go into a game with? How badly do you really want to win that challenge? Something like that can't always be learned in training. However, we've internalised certain process in training that we're bringing into games more often and which allow us to keep things tight. How stable that really is in a match is decided by the attitudes and concentration levels.
bundesliga.com: Two wins and eight goals scored. Are BVB going into the encounter with Bayer 04 Leverkusen next weekend full of confidence?
Gündogan: I think we can approach this match with a lot of self-confidence, but Bayer are a strong opponent, against whom we'll have to produce a complete performance. There's no doubt it's a crucial match because both teams are currently battling for second place. Despite that fact I don't believe that this encounter will decide the outcome. There are 14 more games to come after that in which a lot can happen, but there's no question about it: We want to succeed in Leverkusen and build on our impressive form.
bundesliga.com: And then you could start attacking other targets?
Gündogan: We're maintaining a realistic perspective on everything. There's no reason to start formulating a plan of attack in the title race. A healthy dose of reality can't hurt, which is why we're focusing on clinching second place - for now at least.
Interview by Dietmar Nolte