Dortmund - The eyes of the world will be firmly trained on Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park on Saturday evening when BVB hosts perennial rivals FC Bayern München in the latest edition of Der Klassiker.
Click here to find your local broadcaster for the Klassiker on Saturday
As part of our ongoing Interview of the Week series, bundesliga.com caught up with Dortmund captain for his thoughts on the club’s season so far and the upcoming game against his former side.
bundesliga.com Mats Hummels, after last year’s World Cup it took you a long time to regain your form. Have you experienced a period like that before?
Mats Hummels: Not really. In the 2008/09 season I think I had four ligament injuries on my foot and I’m not even sure that I noticed it - maybe when you’re 19 you heal a bit faster. But I had a pre-season then, and that really is the most important thing: you can have those three or four weeks to prepare so you can carry those little niggles if you get them. As I said, I didn’t notice them at the time, but if I do get an injury like that again I’ll just wait a bit longer before I step out onto the pitch again because otherwise it would just hurt me and the team. I might have one or two good games but I wouldn’t be able to play well consistently.
bundesliga.com: Dortmund’s season seemed to turn with the victory against SC Freiburg on Matchday 20. Can you describe what it was like from your point of view?
Hummels: At the end of the Hinrunde we started playing some good stuff again at home, and in the last three [home] games prior to the winter break we took seven points against some really tough teams. But in the first half of the season away from home, we were unspeakably bad. We made it so easy for teams to beat us, but that has begun to change as well. We’ve had three 0-0s away from home recently - in Leverkusen, which was okay, the other two were a bit frustrating but that was down to the way the opposition lined up against us. And I think it’s probably in our heads that we don’t want to lose these games in the same way as we did in the first half of the season. But getting that confidence and self-belief back and making it last is a process that takes time. We’ve had it more often recently, much more so than in the first half of the season, but definitely not as much as in the last four or five years.
bundesliga.com: Is it true Marco Reus got a round of applause in the dressing room after signing a contract extension?
Hummels:[Laughs] Yes, maybe the applause from the coach was a bit forced, but we’d all congratulated him and were delighted that he signed [a new contract]. The thing in the dressing room was a little show of what it meant to everyone involved and everyone told him as much.
bundesliga.com: Following your recent results, which end of the table are you looking towards most?
Hummels: After the two draws we’ve had, I think it’s time to stop looking forward. We had that run of four wins and afterwards we thought, ‘Yeah, win a couple more and we can gradually creep back up there’, but we weren’t able to do that. Now we’ve got lots of tough games coming up - Bayern, Hoffenheim, Gladbach, Wolfsburg and three of them away from home - which is a really tough run. So for me it’s just about getting points where we can and as quickly as we can so that relegation is mathematically impossible. Looking ahead of ourselves isn’t really an option for us right now.
bundesliga.com: Given that Dortmund are not in the title race, there is relatively little at stake in the Klassiker compared to previous occasions. Does that mean the pressure is off?
Hummels: The Bayern game isn’t a head-to-head battle in any sense really, neither for us, nor for them as I think everybody knows who’ll win the league. So it’s not really a season highlight for us this year compared to say, four years ago.
bundesliga.com: Is it still difficult to motivate yourselves if you’re not competing around the top end of the league like you usually are?
Hummels: When I came here, we finished 13th under Thomas Doll, so it’s not at all difficult to get motivated for games when we’re in this position, because as soon as the game starts, you want to win it. Our overall target might not be to win championships or finish second this time, but it’s not like we’re already resigned to finishing tenth. Every place you can recover gives you confidence and there’s also TV money to consider next season, so every point is important. That’s how we’re going to approach this. Check out some of Dortmund's best goals against FC Bayern, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: