Fin Bartels still harbours realistic hopes of playing UEFA Europa League football with Werder Bremen next season. - © © gettyimages / Joern Pollex
Fin Bartels still harbours realistic hopes of playing UEFA Europa League football with Werder Bremen next season. - © © gettyimages / Joern Pollex

Fin Bartels: "Europa League would be a career highlight"

Qualifying for the UEFA Europa League would be "the icing on the cake", according to Werder Bremen midfielder Fin Bartels.

The Green-Whites are involved in a five-way race for Europe going into the final weekend of the season, but head to second-placed Borussia Dortmund knowing a win - coupled with favourable results elsewhere - would be enough to seal the deal.

Sign Fin Bartels to your Official Fantasy Bundesliga team right here! Fin Bartels, last year Bremen were fighting for survival on the final day. Now you're in with a shot at qualifying for the Europa League. That must be a great feeling, right?

Fin Bartels: Since I've been at Bremen, we've always had a phase in the season where things don't go well for us. Last season was an extreme example because we saved ourselves in our final home game against Frankfurt. Obviously I'm relieved not to be under that extremely negative pressure and be fighting relegation this time. Instead it's a good kind of pressure because there's still something positive up for grabs. When Bremen started the year with four successive defeats, did you ever dream you'd be in such a good place at the end of the season?

Bartels: We definitely knew we could play better and that things would improve. After the four defeats, we'd all have been happy just to be safe right now. It's obviously all the better to be where we are.

Watch: Bremen beat the drop in dramatic fashion on the final day of 2015/16 What was the catalyst for the turnaround after those four defeats on the spin?

Bartels: In spite of the defeats, we continued to work meticulously. We'd also changed a few things tactically, during the winter break, and gone with a back three. We were on the right track going into the new year, but then we had two incredibly tough games against Dortmund and Bayern, where we didn't get the results we deserved, and then we lost to Augsburg. Then we went to Mainz and won, even though it wasn't the most convincing performance. The Wolfsburg game was similar. That was important for our self-confidence for the next games. Back to the current state of play. Werder are eighth in the table and need to climb at least two places to be absolutely sure of a place in the Europa League. Along with sixth-placed Freiburg, are you under the least amount of pressure, when you think that Hertha and Cologne have been chasing a European finish all season? They've got everything to lose; you've got nothing to lose...

Bartels: Yes, we definitely see it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I don't think Cologne and Hertha would have taken it as a given that they'd be up there at this stage because other teams were expected to be in the mix. So it's a fantastic season for all four teams, one way or another.

Watch: Bartels scored one and laid on another against Hertha on Matchday 31 Of all the teams in the running for the Europa League, Bremen have the toughest final fixture. You travel to Dortmund on Saturday - not an easy task.

Bartels: It's tough and it's a huge ask, but we're looking forward to it. Reaching the Europa League would be the icing on the cake on what's been a sensational season for Werder. Would it also represent your greatest achievement to date as a footballer?

Bartels: Yes, absolutely. I can't remember a streak like this in my career. It's really quite amazing what we've done here, but the season's not over yet. We've got to go all out on the final day if we're to put the icing on the cake. Even if you fall short of a place in the Europa League, it'll have been a positive season overall, right?

Bartels: Yes, I think so - especially when you consider the progress the team has made. We're on the right path and there's no reason for that to change once the season is over. It must be a dream for you to be in this situation at the end of the season, not least seeing as you've experienced relegation four times before.

Bartels: Yes, without a doubt. Every footballer dreams of being able to play on the European stage. It'd definitely be a highlight.

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