Mönchengladbach - The driving creative force in Borussia Mönchengladbach's high-octane attacking midfield unit, Brazilian playmaker Raffael has missed just 85 minutes of league action this season and on Matchday 14 is gearing up for a special encounter against not just his former cub, but his brother as well.
However, with the Foals currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak, emotions will play not part for the 29-year-old, who continues to thrive under the tutelage of Lucien Favre, a head coach who has had a significant influence on his professional career.
Speaking exclusively to bundesliga.com ahead of the visit of Hertha Berlin on Saturday, the Fortaleza native sheds light on his relationship with brother Ronny, Gladbach's current dip in form and the breathtaking battle currently taking place for a top-four spot in Germany's top flight.
bundesliga.com: Raffael, you’re up against Hertha and your brother Ronny on Saturday. Have you had any bets with him on the result?
Raffael: (laughs) Not yet, but I’m sure we will [before Saturday].
'Ronny's an almost complete player in my eyes'
bundesliga.com: Do you dream of one day playing on the same side as him again?
Raffael: I do, yes. Maybe it’ll happen sometime in the future. We always played together as kids on Fortaleza, on the street and with our clubs. Even when I was a youth player at Juventus Sao Paulo we were always together. Of course, nobody was expecting both of us to end up in the Bundesliga.bundesliga.com: And who won when you played against each other?
Raffael: (laughs) Sometimes Ronny, sometimes me. They were always good match-ups.
bundesliga.com: Who’s the better player nowadays?
Raffael: I always say Ronny. He’s an almost complete player player in my eyes. He has so many qualities.
'There's never a dull moment with Favre'
bundesliga.com: After brief spells at FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Schalke 04, Mönchengladbach seems to have become your second home.
Raffael: Yes, I’m very, very happy here. I have been since the day I arrived. The people are all friendly, we have great fans and Gladbach is a good city. Everything’s great here.bundesliga.com: Can you see yourself staying at Gladbach for a long time to come?
Raffael: Yes, that’s the plan. There’s no reason to change clubs.
'It’s fun to play with Traore and Hazard'
Raffael: Definitely. Everything he sets out to do he does so well. Whether it’s in a match or in training, working for him is a lot of fun every day. There’s never a dull moment with him.
bundesliga.com: His record has been excellent too. Gladbach have improved year upon year since his arrival in February 2011. Are the team better than they were last season?
Raffael: I think so, we’re incredibly strong this season. We’re playing better football, which is in no small part down to our new players. They’ve all impressed me, especially Ibrahima Traore and Thorgan Hazard.bundesliga.com: Both those players have often had to settle for a place on the bench though. Have they got enough about them to merit a place in the starting eleven?
Raffael: Most definitely. Both are intelligent people, they play a simple game and it’s really fun to play with them.
'We have to beat Hertha'
Raffael: I don’t think so. We played that way last season as well and everything worked fine then. I enjoy the flexibility of our system.
bundesliga.com: Could the result against Hertha be an indicator of where Gladbach will finish this season? You’re now three points off third place, but only two above ninth.
Raffael: The game is very important, but the same can be said for every match. We desperately have to beat Hertha on Saturday. The teams behind us have caught up with us in recent weeks.
bundesliga.com: Borussia are currently fifth in the league. Can you qualify for the Champions League?
Raffael: It’s too early to say. The season is too long and so many things can happen. We just have to focus on ourselves and try and pick up points every game, then we’ll have a chance.
bundesliga.com: A draw against Zürich would be enough to seal your place in the knockout rounds of the Europa League.
Raffael: We have a great chance to reach the second round and we’re playing at home. After that, anything is possible, but we have to take one game at a time. There’s a long way to go until the final.
Raffael was speaking to Felix Seaman-Höschele