With four points from the first two games of 2016, Bayer 04 Leverkusen have made up ground on the UEFA Champions League places and are in good shape for Saturday evening's headline clash with FC Bayern München (kick-off 18:30CET/17:30GMT).
Ahead of that mouthwatering fixture, bundesliga.com caught up with Kevin Kampl to discover his views on Leverkusen's season, the Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez and Stefan Kießling partnership and their chances against Bayern this weekend.
bundesliga.com: Kevin Kampl, what do you make of Leverkusen's league situation after the 3-0 win over Hannover?
Kevin Kampl: Our aim is to qualify for the Champions League and that would mean finishing third or fourth. We're heading in the right direction and after picking up a point in what was not an easy game in Hoffenheim, we've now won. We've got some tough games coming up, though. First with Bayern, then at Darmstadt, where it's not going to be easy, and after that we've got Dortmund. We host Werder Bremen in the DFB Cup and then Sporting Lisbon [in the Europa League]. These are all difficult matches. That's why it's important that we've started the second half of the season successfully. It's likely to be another battle to the very end for a place in Europe. A lot of clubs, including us, have dropped points unexpectedly.
bundesliga.com: What do you see when you look at the table?
Kampl: It's not that I'm starting to make any calculations, but I do know what position we are in and what our goal difference is. It's still too early to make any kind of statement, though. It's nice for the fans because it's exciting, but less so for us players.
bundesliga.com: How much good did it do you to take part in the whole of Leverkusen's Rückrunde preparations, after you missed a chunk of pre-season training due to your move to Die Werkself?
Kampl: It was very important. Spending a full ten days in a training camp with the team is completely different. You get to know each other better and that certainly did me good. We've pulled together that bit more as a team. The preparation was good and we trained a lot, and very well. Now we've got plenty of midweek games coming up and we're not going to have much time to train. This week before the Bayern game is probably our last full week of training so we're going to try to fit as much in as we can, but then we're not going to have so much time so it will be all about recovery.
bundesliga.com: What are your expectations for the second half of the season?
Kampl: Like I said, the aim is to qualify for the Champions League. We're still in good shape in all the competitions we are in: we're fourth in the Bundesliga, we've got a home game in the DFB Cup, which we can win if we do our best. It's going to be hard in the Europa League because we're facing the league leaders from Portugal, who are a really strong team. Nevertheless, we have a good chance if we play as a team. I still think we can achieve a lot this season.
bundesliga.com: Have Leverkusen now found the ideal strike partnership with Stefan Kießling and 'Chicharito'?
Kampl: I think they're both very important players. Both have a lot of experience, one abroad and the other in the Bundesliga. It's a good blend, but we mustn't forget the other players who are setting them up, though. Hakan Calhanoglu or Karim Bellarabi also deserve praise. It's nice for the lads up front to have such players behind them, setting them up.
bundesliga.com: You've got Bayern at the weekend. They've not been looking quite so strong in recent weeks and have also had some injury problems. Does this give Leverkusen more of a chance?
Kampl: We're at home and obviously we will be trying to win the game and not just play for a draw. We also know how extremely difficult it will be. We need to have a perfect day to beat Bayern. It doesn't matter who they have out injured, they have two or three players for every position. I'm sure we'll get our chances, and if we take them better than we did against Hannover, then of course we can beat Bayern.
bundesliga.com: Does it make a difference that Bayern have not beaten you in the most recent meetings at the BayArena?
Kampl: I definitely think that Bayern respect us. It's harder for a team when they know they're up against a side who are in good shape. I'm expecting the atmosphere to be great on Saturday evening and we will do all we can to keep the three points here.
Interview by Tobias Gonscherowski