Borussia Mönchengladbach have made a formidable start to the Bundesliga season, with the Foals’ 3-0 victory at champions Bayern Munich sending them third. For Switzerland midfielder Denis Zakaria, it’s only the start of something bigger… bundesliga.com sat down with the 21-year-old midfielder - who was four games into his Bundesliga career before he misplaced a pass - to get his thoughts.
bundesliga.com: Denis Zakaria, how do you explain the spectacular 3-0 away win for Gladbach over Bayern?
Denis Zakaria: “The key was that we were wide awake and extremely focused from the first minute. Defensively, we allowed virtually nothing, and we were able to cause problems for Bayern on the counter. Our whole team deserves praise for that, especially since so few teams are able to do this at the Allianz Arena. It’s rare for Bayern not to score at home. Our achievement speaks for itself.”
bundesliga.com: Did you believe you could put on such a performance before the game?
Zakaria: “Absolutely. Since the start of the season we’ve been playing with our chests puffed out and a healthy dose of self-confidence. We flew to Munich intending to win the game, just like any other. In my opinion, that's the attitude you need in order to win.”
Watch: Gladbach inflicted Bayern's first league home defeat during Oktoberfest since 2010
bundesliga.com: What’s Gladbach’s greatest strength this season?
Zakaria: “First, the club has strengthened really well in signing Alassane Plea, Michael Lang and Andreas Poulsen. But above all, it’s our discipline that distinguishes us this year. We don’t want to leave anything to chance. Our squad is also deep, we’re well-equipped.”
bundesliga.com: Plea has started well. What’s your impression of the Frenchman?
Zakaria: “He’s not only a good goalscorer, but he really works hard for the team. His defensive contribution in Munich was excellent. Every time we lost the ball, he sprinted back to win it back as quickly as possible. He can also hold the ball up very well and he's ice-cold in front of goal. I hope he builds on his strong form week upon week, then we’ll have a successful season. He can help us have a good season.”
bundesliga.com: Have you set yourselves any goals?
Zakaria: “When the season started, we didn’t set a concrete goal. Now we’re doing very well and we want to keep it up for as long as possible. We'll see what happens. Maybe we can qualify for the Champions League, but it’s still too early to talk about that.”
bundesliga.com: It's your second season at Gladbach. Is the team stronger than last year?
Zakaria: “Our squad is deeper and more balanced, and we’ve got more experience. There’s fierce competition in every position. I’m convinced we have the potential to have a really strong season.”
Zakaria: “That can certainly play a role. But a team that starts a winning run is also happy to be playing every three days to stay in the rhythm. We can focus fully on the Bundesliga and we’ll do our utmost to finish as high as possible.”
bundesliga.com: Due to the greater competition you have played less than 2017/18. How do you deal with that?
Zakaria: “Of course, I was disappointed not to be part of a big match like the Bayern one from the start. Anything else would mean me not doing my job. I’ll continue to work hard to be back soon. But of course I want to play more often.”
bundesliga.com: Mainz visit the Borussia-Park after the international break. Is there a risk of not taking the game as seriously as you did Bayern?
Zakaria: “For me, this is a key outing. Games like this are difficult anyway, but even more so after a big victory. Mainz have a strong team who always give everything. It’s up to us to take the game seriously, to dominate, to be as determined as we were in Munich. Then we can pick up the next three points.”