Gelsenkirchen - FC Schalke 04 are building up a head of steam in the race for the Bundesliga runners-up spot. The Royal Blues’s 2-0 win win over Hertha Berlin on Friday evening - their eighth in the last 11 league matches - lifted them above Ruhr rivals Borussia Dortmund and into second place ahead of BVB’s trip to relegation-threatened VfB Stuttgart on Saturday.
After the match, Julian Draxler spoke to the assembled media about Schalke’s impressive form, his own recent displays in a Royal Blue shirt, and his chances of making the Germany squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.
Question: Julian Draxler, congratulations on the victory. How happy and indeed how tired are you after this week’s difficult matches?
Julian Draxler: You could tell we were running out of energy a bit towards the end, particularly when going forward. Of course everyone’s happy with another win and another three points. It’s nice that we’ve got a normal week coming up so we can recover a little. We even have a little longer to rest because we’ve played on Friday.
Question: What did you make of Chinedu Obasi’s goal?
Draxler: He did incredibly well. I’m delighted for him because he had quite a few problems here at the beginning and suffered setbacks through injury. We know from his time at Hoffenheim that he’s a great player. I’m happy that he’s started to build some momentum.
Question: What do you make of the performances of the young players in the team?
Draxler: If you look at the number of injuries we’re having to deal with, it’s incredible. You could even make a second 11 from all the injured players. It makes our current form all the more remarkable. All the players who have come into the side are giving their all and are adapting to the required standard. You have to take your hat off to them.
Question: How would you rate own display against Hertha?
Draxler: We weren’t that great offensively – we can do better. I’m in the process of changing my game slightly, improving my work rate and helping out more defensively. The distance I cover, and the number sprints in particular, has gone up in recent games. I’m going through a transitional phase, but I think I’m on the right track.
Question: Why did you decide to change your game?
Draxler: I had a lot of time to think about it during my injury and I came to the conclusion that I need to cover more ground in games. It’s clear that there’s still work to be done, but the team is doing very well and I’m feeling more and more comfortable on the pitch. I hope to score again in the near future, or do something special in a match. I’m not putting pressure on myself, the most important thing is that we win. I’ll take my time to improve.
Question: You clearly had a disagreement with Jens Keller on the touchline during the game. What was the matter?
Draxler: We had contrasting views on a certain situation and had a discussion. We came to the conclusion that I was right [laughs]. No, we had a misunderstanding, but it was nothing serious.
Question: What do you make of Schalke’s current league position?
Draxler: The games are running out and as long as we keep winning, we’ll stay near the top. Nothing’s decided yet, of course. Leverkusen are hot on our heels and we’ve managed to overtake Dortmund, but I’m expecting them to win in Stuttgart. We’re not really thinking about our league position yet.
Question: Will you be watching the Dortmund match on Saturday, or will you be following all the matches simultaneously?
Draxler: I’ll watch all the matches, I’m interested in all the games. It’s nice to be able to follow the other results in a relaxed manner. We’ll have to see if our rivals can keep up the pace.
Question: Finally, how do you rate your own World Cup prospects?
Draxler: It’s not easy, competition is very high. I have to impress in the final few matches – that much is clear – but it’s about being fully fit when you receive the call-up. In that respect, I’m on the right track.
Markus Hoffmann reporting from Gelsenkirchen