Thomas, you got your eighth assist already this season against Paderborn. It looked like your free-kick which led to Marius Bülter’s header had been practiced. Have you been working on those kinds of scenarios in training?
We work on set pieces every week in training. We’ve got a few different routines up our sleeves. This one that led to the goal is just one of those. I’m pleased that our work in training paid off again. Bülti headed it in really nicely too.
You could have even got your ninth assist of the season in the second half if Darko Churlinov hadn’t been denied by the post. Have you ever played a game in which the woodwork was hit on three occasions in such a short space of time like on Friday?
No, I can’t remember any games like that! Those few minutes were really crazy. We were unlucky twice, but also had luck on our side at the other end. Martin Fraisl made a fingertip save to tip their shot onto the post; it was a stunning piece of goalkeeping. I got over our shots that hit the post quite quickly because I believed that we’d get a second goal soon enough, which we did.
We kept another clean sheet on Friday night at the VELTINS-Arena, defeating Paderborn 2-0, a side that were unbeaten on their travels prior to the game. How did you spend the rest of the weekend?
Mainly in a good mood because we won. I reflected on the game afterwards but then gave myself a full day to completely switch off. I spent that time with my girlfriend and friends. Days like that give me energy and strength, plus they are good for the mind.
Along with our quality, our team spirit will also play a big role in the closing weeks – and we’re blessed in both those departments.
You’ve played the most minutes for Schalke so far this season, completing the full 90 minutes on all but one occasion. Did you expect you would be almost always in the side before the season kicked off?
You can never know what will happen in football. When I joined last summer, I obviously hoped to be playing as often as possible, so I’m pleased this is the case. I give my all in every training session and in every game, and I always want to keep on improving.
Unless something extraordinary happens, you should be starting against Karlsruher SC this weekend. We lost the reverse fixture 2-1 – is that giving you any extra motivation as you prepare for Saturday?
Yes and no. We all know that we didn’t put in our best performance that day. A number of things didn’t go well. We are motivated by the chance of picking up more points, regardless of how the last meeting went. We ultimately want to stay at the top of the league, so we need to take something back to Gelsenkirchen with us.
You’re coming up against a former teammate in Ricardo van Rhijn in Karlsruhe, having played alongside him in Alkmaar. Are you still in contact and do you talk about the 2. Bundesliga?
We actually haven’t spoken for a while now. I should think we’ll definitely get the chance to catch up after the final whistle on Saturday. I’m looking forward to seeing him again.
The league table is still really close, what’s your take on it?
There’s only two points between the league leaders (Werder Bremen) and the side in fifth (us) after 23 matchdays. I can’t remember such a tight promotion race, it’s incredible. Along with our quality, our team spirit will also play a big role in the closing weeks – and we’re blessed in both those departments.