Munich - It’s almost exactly two years ago that Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Patrick Herrmann scored twice in an unforgettable 3-1 win over league leaders FC Bayern München in the opening fixture of the 2011/12 Rückrunde.
With a slight feeling of déjà vu going into the two sides' latest ding-dong, the 22-year-old midfielder recalls the moment fourth toppled first, discusses Gladbach’s development in the intervening years and gives us his tip for Friday’s relaunch…
bundesliga.com On it goes into the second half of the season with the visit of the hitherto unbeaten FC Bayern. You must have good memories of playing them…?
Patrick Herrmann: That’s right. It’s almost two years to the day that Bayern came to us for the restart. Back then, they were league leaders and we were just four points behind in fourth. We played brilliantly and won 3-1. I scored twice so it was a really great day for me.
bundesliga.com: And now you’re bang in form after a poor start to the season. Are you happy?
Herrmann: Towards the end of the first half of the season, it went really well. I provided assists, made some decisive passes and I think my overall performances were up to scratch.
bundesliga.com: Bayern travel to Gladbach on the back of a hefty 3-0 friendly defeat to Red Bull Salzburg. Are you worried [Pep] Guardiola’s team will now come out with even more aggression?
Hermann: There’s no doubt that the defeat will have angered Bayern. Let’s not forget it was only a friendly and I’m sure they would not have lost to Red Bull if it was a competitive game. So I'm not reading too much into the defeat.
bundesliga.com Borussia on the other hand didn’t lose any of their friendlies. Have you already found the form of the first season half?
Herrmann: For us, it’s just like it is for Bayern: friendlies are completely different to competitive games, so you can’t take that much from them. We’ll have to see how it goes in the coming games. We’ll only be able to say whether or not we’ve returned to form in a couple of weeks. What I can say is that we’re certainly still as fit as we were at the turn of the year.
bundesliga.com: During the Hinrunde, Borussia dominated the majority of their opponents in terms of possession, but that’s unlikely to work against Bayern…
Herrmann: It’s virtually impossible to implement that tactic against the best team in the world. Bayern play such a high pressing game and dominate possession and they understand how much pressure that puts you under. We know we’ll have to defend more than against other teams, but we won’t sit back and hide. We’ll do everything to play with them, keep hold of the ball and create chances.
bundesliga.com: You’ll be partly responsible for making that happen, although you’ll have to help out at the back with Franck Ribery coming at you down your side…
Herrmann: Ribery’s world class, maybe even the best in the world. You can only stop him if you work well as a team. Otherwise it’s virtually impossible.
bundesliga.com: “The best in the world”: Did he get your vote for the Ballon d’Or?
Herrmann: Ribery, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Lionel] Messi – they’re all out of this world. To determine who’s the best would be really difficult for me. Instinctively, I would have given it to Ribery.
bundesliga.com: Borussia are likely to be pushed defensively against Bayern compared to most other games that you’ve dominated. Are you concerned that more teams will come to Borussia Park to defend?
Herrmann: I don’t think it’ll be much different to the first half of the season. After a few games, teams knew what we were about. As a result, a lot of teams tried to make life hard for us by sitting deep. So that’s what we have to expect during the second half of the season.
bundesliga.com: Regardless of what happens [on Friday], do you think anything can stop Bayern from winning the title?
Herrmann: No. There are too many points to make up, even though it’s mathematically possible. For the second year running, Bayern are playing at such a high level, so I really can’t see them throwing it away. It comes down to the quality of their squad. Any shortcomings are well covered.
bundesliga.com: Is the current Borussia squad even better than the one that finished fourth two years ago?
Herrmann: That’s a really difficult question. Our style of play is completely different for starters…
bundesliga.com: With the pace of Marco Reus you used to play on the counter…
Herrmann: Exactly. Marco caused a lot of problems going forward and we really understood each other. Still, I think our new system, based on possession, really suits us.
bundesliga.com: The system and attractive, goal-filled playing style has raised fans’ expectations. Does that also put you under pressure?
Herrmann: I can only speak for myself, but I don’t feel any particular pressure. Of course we know what a great Hinrunde we played, above all winning seven in a row. We’re also realistic in knowing that it’ll be really tough to replicate our form after the restart. Of course the fans are allowed to dream, but we have to keep our feet on the ground and fight hard for every point.
bundesliga.com: Does that mean Borussia had already reached 100 per cent during the first season half?
Herrmann: We were pretty close, especially during the seven-match winning streak I mentioned. It’s not impossible to do it again, but it will be really difficult. We’ve been here before when we finished fourth. We didn’t play as well during the second half of the season, so we’ve been warned. There are some teams I’m wary of, too.
bundesliga.com: Would you be disappointed if Gladbach only managed to finish sixth at the end of the season?
Herrmann: No, not disappointed. We would have surpassed the goals and expectations we set ourselves at the start of the season. Of course it feels great to be third in the standings, but like I said there’s still a long way to go and we mustn’t forget that compared to the first half, we have one less home game to play.
bundesliga.com: Finally, what’s your tip for the Bayern game?
Herrmann: I’ll have to think about that one (laughs). Sure, I’d love to win - then we’d be the first team to have beaten Bayern [in the league] this season. The most important thing is that we play well for the fans. We could consider it a success if we can get a draw.
Interview by Andreas Kötter