Austria international midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic believes SV Werder Bremen's home form could be the key to their hopes of beating the drop in 2015/16.
The relegation-threatened Green-Whites recorded a priceless 3-1 victory away to FC Schalke 04 on Matchday 18, but host Hertha Berlin this weekend having won only once at the Weser Stadium in the Bundesliga all season.
bundesliga.com: Zlatko Junuzovic, Werder Bremen made a good start to the Rückrunde. How surprised were you by the 3-1 win at Schalke?
Zlatko Junuzovic: It wasn’t really a game we were expected to win beforehand. We had high hopes, and prepared accordingly, but we know there was a bit of luck involved because we gave Schalke so many chances in the first half-hour. Schalke also took the lead, which didn’t make things any easier for us. Taking all three points made it all the more enjoyable.
bundesliga.com: The successful start to the Rückrunde brings back memories of last season when you started the year behind Stuttgart in 16th and then reignited your season. It was the same this time round. Was there a feeling of deja vu?
Junuzovic: I certainly hope it turns out to be a case of deja vu. We’re working on it. It’ll be tough stringing together a good run like last year, though, because the games won’t get any easier. We’ve got Hertha coming up. They’re another tough opponent who are consistently good and cause every team problems. They’re strong away right now because they’re very good defensively. It’s a massive task for us. We have to concentrate and focus on the game.
bundesliga.com: Prior to the winter break, Werder had only picked up four points from eight home matches. Is that down to the tough run of fixtures against the likes of FC Bayern, Dortmund, Schalke Leverkusen and Mönchengladbach? Or was the problem more severe?
Junuzovic: Obviously we wanted to pick up more points in front of our own fans. That was a real strength of ours last season. Now it’s about rediscovering those strengths, which is why the Hertha game is so important. We need to pick up points at home. We weren’t doing that in the Hinrunde. We had a bit more joy away from home.
bundesliga.com: You’ve been at Bremen for four years now. How have you developed personally in this time?
Junuzovic: Taking the four years into account, it’s been a whirlwind ride. We’ve had plenty of highs, some lows and times when we really had to find our way. You’re always developing, you analyse yourself and forge new paths. You get older. A few things have changed privately, too. Time whizzes by. I’ve learnt a lot about life. In this respect, I’ve really developed a lot.
bundesliga.com: You enjoyed your best season in a Bremen shirt last term. You scored some spectacular free kicks and registered 15 assists. The numbers have dropped off this season. Is that the reason why the team generally had problems in the Hinrunde?
Junuzovic: It’s a combination of a few things. I made a good start to the season. The euphoria after qualifying for the Euros with Austria was huge. The autumn wasn’t too bad for me, but towards the end I wasn’t quite at the level, physically, that I envisaged. I was fit enough to play, but not fit enough to be happy with myself. I made a few mistakes, sometimes I came back too early - like when I’d been ill for two weeks and on antibiotics. I’d lost all my strength. I’d had a good spell before that and I wanted to get back to that level as quickly as possible. Now I have to work hard again. The team have to be more consistent and cohesive, and function as a unit. Then we’ll move forward.
bundesliga.com: A big plus is the calm at the club and the confidence in the coach. How important is that for the team?
Junuzovic: It’s extremely important, but we also know where we have to improve. Whether it’s calm or not, it doesn’t affect what happens. Everyone’s tense. Under no circumstances should we doubt ourselves or worry. We have to play like we did in the second half against Schalke. That was really good. We were tight, we were brave. We were committed in the tackle and we were aggressive. That’s how we have to go about things against Hertha.
bundesliga.com: Hertha travel to the Weser Stadium sitting third in the Bundesliga. They’ve consistently picked up points and only lost to the big sides. In the Hinrunde, Werder took a point from the Olympiastadion. Would a draw be enough this time?
Junuzovic: Obviously our objective is to control and win the game. We’ll have to see how it plays out on Saturday. We were caught napping and conceded a goal in the opening stages in Berlin, but we came closer to winning it towards the end. We hit the woodwork twice. It’s no accident that Hertha are where they are in the table - they’ve put in some very good performances. It won’t be easy, we have to be at our best.
Interview by Tobias Gonscherowski