Niklas Süle is determined to finish his Hoffenheim stay with a flourish, before joining record Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in the summer.
The 21-year-old centre-back's current employers slipped to fourth in the standings following Saturday's 2-1 defeat to top-three rivals Borussia Dortmund, but with just two points separating the pair going into the penultimate weekend, all is not lost in the race to secure the Bundesliga's final qualifying berth for next season's UEFA Champions League group stage.
Question: Niklas Süle, what did you make of the game and how do you deal with such a defeat?
Niklas Süle: We really wanted to win the game. We went into the game like any other: with the intention of coming away as winners. Unfortunately, it didn't happen for various reasons. We had a good plan, which we'd worked on all week, but we had to tear that up after going behind in the fifth minute. We had to put Dortmund under pressure, and sacrificed a defender for a striker late on. Dortmund are a really good counter-attacking team, though, and scored the decisive second goal, which I don't think they deserved.
Watch: Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann on the defeat to Dortmund
Question: What makes you say it was an undeserved win for Dortmund?
Süle: We controlled the game from start to finish. We had more possession and were more precise with our passes. That's why the defeat is so hard to take.
Question: It was a hectic and tetchy game on and off the pitch. What was the experience like for you?
Süle: It was a heated game. No one is ever made to feel welcome in Dortmund, but we tried to turn that into a positive and draw on a few more per cent. I don't think we've ever had as much possession in Dortmund as we did. We had them completely under control. That makes coming away empty-handed even more frustrating.
Question: Perhaps it was a conscious ploy on Dortmund's part to let you have more of the ball, so that you couldn't do much off it?
Süle: I think we've made a lot of progress in that regard in recent months. Our possession play is very good now. We weren't able to create many goal-scoring changes, though, because Dortmund defended so well. We didn't give much away either, especially in the first half. We did a good job of that against one of the best attacking teams in the Bundesliga. It got tougher as the second half went on, though, because we were constantly trying to get the ball forward.
Watch: Hoffenheim's tactical wizardry
Question: Were TSG missing that cut and thrust in the final third?
Süle: As I said, Dortmund defended very well. We expected them to come out all guns blazing, but they didn't. Even though the final ball was lacking on our part, it was pretty clear it was going to be really difficult to create many chances with Dortmund playing so defensively.
Question: In Dortmund it was being talked about as a final to decide who finishes third. Did the game have that meaning for you?
Süle: We still have two games, so I don't know how it can be referred to as a final. It was a big game that both teams had earned the right to be part of. We've already achieved so much this year. We can be happy with our season. We enjoyed the game. Personally, I always love playing in Dortmund.
Question: How do you rate your chances or usurping Dortmund in third and qualifying directly for the Champions League group stage?
Süle: There's always a chance. It's not in our hands, so we just have to hope Dortmund slip up. If someone had said before the season started that we'd be so high in the standings with two games to go, I'd have snapped their hand off. No one expected it. We have to take the positives from the game and get right back to it!
Watch: Niklas Süle is worthy candidate for the Team of the Season back four
Question: How important is it for you personally to sign off with Hoffenheim in the Champions League?
Süle: Fourth place is in the bag, so that's us in the Champions League play-offs as a minimum. Securing Europa League football after the game in Cologne on Matchday 30 was already a massive achievement. We can all be proud of that. We worked hard for it and everyone played their part. That makes me very happy! If we finish fourth, I'll leave the club as a happy man.
Question: You've got two games left as a Hoffenheim player, before moving to Bayern...
Süle: All the more reason to work even harder over the next couple of weeks! I've known for a while that my time here is almost at an end. It's not easy for me, but I'm just happy to be signing off after such a strong season.
Dietmar Nolte reporting from Dortmund
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