High-achievers Schalke have been busy preparing for the new season with a training camp in Austria. Shortly before the trip, bundesliga.com spoke to leading marksman Guido Burgstaller about their return to the UEFA Champions League as well as the Royal Blues’ goals for the Bundesliga.
bundesliga.com: Some players curse the hard work in pre-season, while others cannot get enough of it. How is it for you?
Guido Burgstaller: The summer preparations are obviously always a bit harder. But we’ve all been in this business a long time, and it is part of the business to prepare yourself during this period. It’s essential that you get your body back on track and get fit for the league.
bundesliga.com: While in China recently your colleagues tested themselves against Southampton among others. How much are you looking forward to playing against Premier League, Serie A and La Liga clubs in the Champions League?
Burgstaller: We’re very proud that we managed to qualify, and the sense of anticipation ahead of the Champions League is huge. We’ll be working hard in the training camp so that we’ll be able to compete in the competition. But I’d also say that our day-to-day business is the Bundesliga, and we can’t let that suffer.
Watch: See how Schalke got on at their recent Bundesliga Media Day
bundesliga.com: The upcoming workload of competing on three fronts – in the league, DFB Cup and Champions League - will, after a season without European football, be challenging on the body...
Burgstaller: If you ask me personally, I can only say that for me there’s nothing nicer than being able to play football matches every three or four days. It’s a lot better than ‘only’ being on the training pitch. I’m not worried at all about playing in three competitions.
bundesliga.com: Is the squad big enough to meet the demands?
Burgstaller: I’m convinced that the squad has more depth than last season. And our coach has a keen sense of how he has to manage the workload of each player. That’s why I see us as well-equipped.
bundesliga.com: Schalke are going into the season as league runners-up. Is that the new yardstick, or should expectations be a little lower?
Burgstaller: I think we should keep them lower. Last season was outstanding. A lot of things clicked for us, and we fully deserved to be runners-up. To repeat that will not be easy. We want to do all we can in order for everything to work out again, but to assume as much would be very careless. Of course our goal is to get a European place. But whether that will be second or maybe fourth or fifth place is hard to predict.
bundesliga.com: Above all last season Schalke benefitted from a brilliant defensive performance from the entire team…
Burgstaller: We were indeed very good and compact, and it was very hard to play through us. That started up front with the forwards pressing the ball, and finished at the back with our top defenders. Everything was spot on.
bundesliga.com: Does a forward want a more attacking focus every now and then?
Burgstaller: Obviously as a striker you would like to win 5-2 or 6-2, and for you to get three goals yourself. But our defenders like Naldo or [Daniel] Caligiuri were very dangerous in front of goal, and contributed a lot of assists. We maybe didn’t always play spectacularly, but it doesn’t always have to be like that. What was more important was that everyone always operated in a very targeted way, and that everyone always knew what he had to do on the pitch.
bundesliga.com: Bayern Munich won the league by 21 points last season. Will the title race be tighter this year?
Burgstaller: That’s hard to say. That Bayern will start as clear favourites is not up for discussion. But they can also have a weaker period. In that case, another club has to be there and produce consistent performances over a period of months. Then you can also be dangerous to Bayern, but for that to happen obviously a lot of things have to come together.
Interview by Andreas Kötter