Hertha Berlin only need to draw against Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday to secure a first European campaign since the 2009/10 season. The capital club’s midfield metronome Vladimir Darida is taking nothing for granted, though.
bundesliga.com caught up with the 26-year-old to get his thoughts Saturday’s opponents, the European chase, and his latent soft spot for Freiburg…
bundesliga.com: Vladimir Darida, Hertha can crown a great season with a fifth-place finish and with it automatic qualification for the Europa League on Saturday. What is the atmosphere like in Berlin ahead of your final game, against Bayer Leverkusen?
Vladimir Darida: Honestly, I don’t know about the mood in the city, but I can tell you that in the dressing room everyone wants to get the points we need to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League.
Watch: The race for Europe
bundesliga.com: What did Hertha do better this year than last last, when you lost a place in the top six?
Darida: This season we’re very strong. Unfortunately, we had a phase where we lost some away games [nine in a row between matchdays 15 and 31]. That is the only thing we can complain about this season. Otherwise everything has been in order.
bundesliga.com: How has coach Pal Dardai dealt with the team in these decisive weeks? Does he try to take the pressure off you?
Darida: He has remained calm and has transmitted that to the team. We trained as normal during the week. We don’t do anything special and focus entirely on the game against Leverkusen.
bundesliga.com: What would it mean for you personally if Hertha got into the Europa League?
Darida: It's always nice to have a few more games per week and to go on journeys across Europe. These are great experiences. You play against other good teams and players.
bundesliga.com: Your last game is against Leverkusen, who have had a disappointing season. Die Werkself have only won one game since March. What do you make of your opponents? What do Hertha have to do to get the three points?
Darida: Leverkusen have punched below their weight this season, but that team do not want to lose their final game of the season. If you look at their squad, you will find a lot of top quality players. It won’t be easy.
bundesliga.com: What would happen in the stadium and the city in the event of Europa League qualification?
Darida: First we have to make it, then we can celebrate with the fans in the Olympiastadion. But at the moment our concentration is only on the game.
bundesliga.com: Do you also have one eye on Munich, where your former club Freiburg could stage a coup?
Darida: Freiburg have had a great season so far and now have a difficult game against Bayern Munich. Two years ago they beat Bayern 2-1 in Freiburg, when I was still there. Anything can happen. But for all the good feeling I have towards Freiburg, I want Hertha to finish above them. The best would be if both clubs could qualify for Europe!
Darida was speaking to Tobias Gonscherowski