Borussia Mönchengladbach ended a patchy run of form in the Bundesliga in perfect time ahead of their DFB-Pokal round of 16 tie against Hannover 96 on Wednesday (18:30 CET), securing victory against FC Bayern München just like they did in the last round of the cup. Gladbach captain Lars Stindl gave an interview with DFB.de and spoke about the upcoming game against his former side, special DFB-Pokal moments and getting stick off a his changing-room neighbour.
DFB.de: Lars Stindl, your brilliant 5-0 victory over FC Bayern got you into the hat for the round of 16, where you were drawn to face your old side Hannover 96. What was your reaction to the draw?
Lars Stindl: I was pleased because it’s personally something very special to me. It’s a shame the match will be played behind closed doors, because I know the atmosphere in the ground to be a lot different normally. It’s nice that our paths have crossed once again, which is a nice aspect of it. But obviously, the main aim for the team and me is to progress through to the next round.
DFB.de: What especially are you looking forward to?
Stindl: When you play away at a former side, you come across several familiar things; the stadium, some of the club staff members who you haven’t seen in a while. In terms of the squad, I don’t know any of them apart from Ron-Robert Zieler. A lot’s changed at Hannover over the years.
DFB.de: You’re certainly down as the favourites for the tie. How dangerous can that be? Is there a chance you may slip up?
Stindl: It’s a bit of a cliché, but every match in the DFB-Pokal is always special, no matter whom the opponent is. Each team is dangerous and can cause you problems. We’re aware of our position going into the game. Our goal is to progress to the quarter-final, but we also know that 96 are always capable of putting in a big performance, especially in a game like this. They beat HSV in a thrilling match and showed what they’re capable of. We need to show just what we can do straight from the first whistle.
DFB.de: It’s evident you keep a close eye on the results of your old club. What are your memories of Hannover 96?
Stindl: Very positive ones. I was there in possibly the most successful period in the club’s history [between 2010 and 2015]. We went on a lot of special away trips in the Europa League, and everyone still speaks very fondly about this time.
DFB.de: It’s now your seventh season at Borussia, and you’re the oldest outfield player in the squad...
Stindl: ...the second oldest player in the squad, behind Tobias Sippel. A few of the lads around my age have already retired or have moved on. But age isn’t an important factor here at Gladbach, it’s more about personality and sporting ability. I feel really comfortable at Borussia.
DFB.de: You’ve also signed a contract with Borussia until 2023, and despite being 33 years old, you’ve only missed one game this season through suspension. You’re in great shape, even if that wasn’t necessarily the case in recent years.
Stindl: Exactly. I battled with a few injuries during the 2018/19 season. But for around one and a half to two years I’ve been at a good level physically, and I’ve fortunately not had to spend too much time on the sidelines (knocks on wood). I hope to maintain this level of fitness so I can play more football and continue to prove myself.
DFB.de: Let’s go back to speaking about the upcoming cup tie. Are you expecting a defensively resolute 96 side?
Stindl: We’re still yet to go through Hannover’s playing style and tactics in detail, but our coaching staff will prepare us well for that. I know the team a little bit because I follow their progress, and so I know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Of course, they’ll try and make things difficult for us and won’t lie down and let us walk all over them. They have good quality on the ball and will try and show that off during the game, which is exactly what we need to stop.
DFB.de: After you knocked out strong favourites Bayern München, a lot of teams have got a new perspective with regards to the competition. How important is the competition for you?
Stindl: As is the case every year, the DFB-Pokal is an important competition for us. Every team dreams of achieving something special. You go into the tournament every year with hoping for a bit of luck in the draw and to play well enough to reach the final in Berlin. We’ve come close to the final on one or two occasions, but then unfortunately slipped up just before that. We want to be there until the very end whilst also focussing on each game as it comes. We have ambitious aims and dreams.
DFB.de: How many of your mates from other teams have contacted you to thank you for eliminating Bayern?
Stindl: None of them. At the end of the day, it was a special and historic game. But without being dismissive of the achievement, it was only the second round. If you get knocked out in the next stage of the cup, it doesn’t really mean much, and we absolutely want to avoid that.
DFB.de: It’ll be the same for other teams that now Bayern are out, they need to take the opportunity that has arisen.
Stindl: That was also the case last year. After a tight game against Borussia Dortmund we unfortunately came up short. Otherwise we might’ve achieved something huge in that year.
DFB.de: What moment from the Pokal do you look back on most fondly?
Stindl: I’ll always remember the Bayern game, for sure. The toughest game was probably losing the semi-final on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt in 2017. I was also in a couple of teams that got knocked out painfully at Hannover, but those experiences can also help you. It wasn’t part of my career, but I’m sure Gladbach fans will remember the 1995 Pokal win too. I was a huge Karlsruhe fan growing up, so I was distraught when they lost in the final in 1996 against Kaiserslautern, and it still hurts to this day, because I sit next to Tobias Sippel in our dressing room now, who was born in the area and was a huge Kaiserslautern fan – talking to him about the cup is never fun!
DFB.de: Karlsruher SC are still in this season’s competition, and will face 1860 München in the round of 16. That could be an exciting tie for you if you both progress.
Stindl: I don’t want to think that far ahead yet. Of course, it would be a special moment; both of my former clubs were in the last draw, and I wished for us to be given one of them – we got Hannover! A game in the Wildparkstadion (home of KSC) would’ve been great too, with it nearly fully rebuilt. As I said, we all love the cup, but we’ve got a job to do against Hannover.
DFB.de: Let’s skip back to your day-to-day life. Have Borussia regained their Bundesliga form following the win at FC Bayern?
Stindl: It was important to get a point out of our last game of 2021 against Hoffenheim, even if we found the equaliser in the last minute. We held our own against them and at least we got something out of it. We prepared a lot for the second half of the season and the opener against Bayern. It was great to take three points home from Munich with a 2-1 win, but what’s important now is to keep going and to bring some consistency to our game over an extended period of time. If we do that, we’ll get the points we need to start moving into the higher echelons of the table. It we don’t, it’ll be an uncomfortable season.
DFB.de: Does the footballer in you have any other dreams that you want to achieve in your career?
Stindl: When you’re a professional footballer you always hope to achieve something special. We celebrated some special moments at Borussia-Park with our Champions League journey, but the DFB-Pokal is a dream for every player at a German club. I want to at least reach the final in Berlin once; I don’t have that many chances to do that left. I really want to win something.
DFB.de: A final trivia question: Do you know which captain Borussia last lifted the Pokal trophy? A hint: it wasn’t Stefan Effenberg.
Stindl: Our press officer is just helping me out, I have no idea (laughs)! It was Michael Klinkert.