FC Schalke 04 are back on track. After a difficult start to the campaign the Royal Blues are now undefeated in six competitive fixtures and hoping to parlay that form into the Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
bundesliga.com sat down with Schalke centre-back Naldo to get the inside track on the Brazilian star's start to life at the VELTINS Arena, and what his hopes are for the clash with Schalke's great rivals at the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK.
bundesliga.com: Naldo, although you are the most experienced Schalke player with more than 300 Bundesliga appearances and have often been to the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK before with your former teams, this is going to be your first Revierderby...
Naldo: And I'm looking forward to this game! Dortmund against Schalke, Schalke against Dortmund - this game electrifies the whole region every time, and these two games are the undisputed highlights of the year for the fans of both clubs.
Watch: Take a tour of the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK, the stunning venue for the 89th Revierderby in the Bundesliga:
bundesliga.com: Can the special atmosphere in Dortmund intimidate the players who are playing there for the first time?
Naldo: I do not think so. Rather, the effect is reversed. This atmosphere creates a positive feeling. And with us everyone is excited for this game. We can also count on great support from our fans. The Dortmunders are very loud, but so are Schalke. (Laughs)
'We can count on great support from our fans... a victory in the derby can boost your self-confidence.'
bundesliga.com: Schalke have actually won more points over the last three Bundesliga games than Dortmund. Schalke have won seven points in that time, conceding just once; Die Schwarzgelben have only managed two draws and conceded six in that time…
Naldo: We're not the favourites. But before a derby with as much meaning behind it as the Revierderby, one cannot talk about favourites. What happened in recent weeks is no longer important. You can have a bad run of form but in a derby anything is possible. Everyone is trying to push beyond their limit and get the most possible out of the game. And everyone knows that a victory in the derby can give another boost to your self-confidence going forward. No, we are certainly not the favourites. But that does not change the fact that we want to take three points home once the 90 minutes are up.
bundesliga.com: What do you attribute the difficult first weeks of the season to?
Naldo: We had a very good training camp in the summer, which gave us a good feeling. And yet you have to recognise that the changes at Schalke - with a new general manager, a new coach and seven new signings - were great but took time to gel. Our start in Frankfurt was a complete failure (Schalke lost 1-0 to Eintracht on the opening day). It was by far the worst of our five defeats and, we have to accept, our worst game. The performance against FC Bayern München was good, not the result (Schalke lost 2-0 to the champions on Matchday 2). And then followed the game at Hertha Berlin (Schalke lot 2-0 in the capital)...
Watch: The new faces at Schalke for the 2016/17 season:
bundesliga.com: ...that was a big disappointment after the good performance against Bayern, which had given you a boost.
Naldo: Exactly. Especially in the second half we did not work as a team. That was really disappointing, because after the Bayern game and the victory in the Europa League at OGC Nice everyone thought: "Now we're finally underway!" Instead, doubt crept in and the self-confidence of the players was decreasing. It is therefore all the more important that you do not let your heads go down after five defeats, and that you can still stand together.
bundesliga.com: Did such a situation not burden you?
Naldo: Not only in football, but also in life, faith in oneself and in one's own abilities are the key to success. Personally, I manage this quite well, even after five defeats and even if I have played badly. This does not mean that I am unable to criticise myself. On the contrary: I ask questions of myself after every game and consider what I could have done better. But I never lose my head. Because as an experienced player, it is my duty to help the younger players and the new players integrate into the side.
'Faith in one's abilities are key to success... our journey is still long and we must continue to work hard.'
bundesliga.com: Do your teammates come to you, or do you take one or two to the side yourself?
Naldo: I am always deliberately looking for conversations with the guys. Even now, by the way, now things are getting better and the first victories are on the board. Just as after defeats, one must always maintain a good environment. In the same way that everything was not lost after five defeats, we have also not won anything at all after picking up seven points from three games. Our journey is still long and we have to continue to work hard.
Interview by Andreas Kötter
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