For Christoph Kramer, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s DFB-Pokal game against Bayern Leverkusen (31st October, 20:45 CEST) is quite a significant game. The midfielder spent his youth career at Leverkusen and was at the club until 2016. Initially moving away on loan, he has since discovered his love for The Foals.
Kramer discussed the upcoming game, the differences between Leverkusen and Gladbach, and his role as a TV pundit.
DFB.de: You got to the semi-final once before and the quarter-final three times, how much do you want to make it to the final this year?
Christoph Kramer: A lot. Getting so close so often, you want to get into the final at some point too. We’re only in October however, so it’s too early to talk about it yet, especially when we have a difficult game with Bayer Leverkusen coming up.
DFB.de: Sporting director Max Eberl has said that he wants to get his hands on something. The Bundesliga title is probably unrealistic, but the DFB-Pokal is a realistic goal for Borussia. Do you think so too?
Kramer: With the number of games and the knockout system, we’ve definitely got a better chance of winning the DFB-Pokal. The competition has a charm to it, because with a few wins you can get to a stage where you’re thinking about the final.
DFB.de: You have a history with Bayer Leverkusen, having played for them at youth level and also professionally. After your loan to Gladbach, you made it known that you didn’t want to return to Leverkusen and that you’d rather play for Borussia. Why is Gladbach better, in your opinion?
Kramer: It depends what you mean by better. Leverkusen are a great team. I’ve played there my whole life, I’ve got a connection to the club and I’m very grateful. In Gladbach I just feel very comfortable and accepted, I get on well with everyone too. I didn’t mean anything negative towards my former club when I said that I wanted to stay in Gladbach.
DFB.de: Nevertheless, you returned to Leverkusen for the 2015/16 season, played regularly, and qualified for the Champions League. How do you rate this season looking back?
Kramer: It was a great experience to play for the club where I came through the youth ranks and used to be a ball boy. This was especially because I played regularly in all three competitions: the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League. I really enjoyed it when I got the chance to return to Gladbach, though.
DFB.de: What are the biggest differences between the two clubs?
Kramer: It’s a bit more intense at Gladbach. Where there’s a lot of tradition and fans living for the game, it’s always more emotional. The club depends on its tradition and passion. Bayer Leverkusen may not have this kind of fan culture, but you’re more left alone to get on with things there, so both clubs have their advantages and disadvantages.
DFB.de: How do you rate Bayer Leverkusen this season?
Kramer: Leverkusen have a great team and squad. Although they had a difficult start to the season, they’re on their way back. Meeting Leverkusen in the second round is a tough draw.
DFB.de: Gladbach have started the season really well, especially after the 3-0 win against Bayern Munich. What do you need to beat Bayern so convincingly?
Kramer: You have to be ice cold up front and have some luck as well.
DFB.de: Following the game, do you think that the Bundesliga will open up and there will be a title race?
Kramer: We’ll see. Bayern will stay on top because they have unbelievable quality, and so they’ll probably become champions.
DFB.de: Following Gladbach’s difficult end to last season, you’ve started this season really well. How much of this is down to the switch from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3?
Kramer: The formation change has played a big role, of course. Following the second half of last season, we thought a lot about what problems we had. Changing the formation was the right approach from the coaching staff. We always try to outnumber the opposition in midfield and we’re dangerous all over the pitch. Our transition play is quick and this stems from our compactness, which is difficult for opponents to deal with.
DFB.de: The formation change has meant that only one defensive midfielder is needed, and you were only a substitute for the first four games. How hard has it been to accept this role?
Kramer: It’s not been difficult, even if nobody believes me. We have a good and large squad. I knew what I was doing when I chose a team sport. I don’t really see this whole competitive situation that’s being talked up from the outside. To me, they’re all just my teammates, I’m fine with it. Obviously I’d like to be playing, but there’s no drama if I’m on the bench for four games.
DFB.de: You made your debut as a TV pundit at the World Cup this summer and got some good comments.
Kramer: It was a lot of fun and a good insight. I could definitely see myself doing it again. It’s always good to see what’s happening from a different angle. Of course there’s a difference between analysing a game and being a player, but I think that I did well.
DFB.de: Are there any TV pundits that you’re inspired by?
Kramer: Matthias Sammer, he’s very likeable.
DFB.de: Where will you be for EURO 2020, on the pitch or in the studio?
Kramer: I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll experience it from the couch (laughs). It’ll be one of three possibilities.###more###