The two leaders of the Rhein rivals – Cologne goalkeeper Timo Horn and Borussia's number one, Yann Sommer - spoke in a double interview about their expectations for tomorrow's derby between the Goats and the Foals.
What are both your greatest memories of the derby so far?
Sommer: Luckily I have some nice derby memories! If I had to pick one, I’d choose the home game in the 2014/15 season. It was my first derby at BORUSSIA-PARK and although we were the better team, we couldn’t score, then in added time Granit Xhaka scored the winning goal with a great header. The Nordkurve literally exploded behind me, and Granit sprinted the length of the pitch in celebration. It was truly an unforgettable moment.
Horn: If I had to pick one that I played in, I’d definitely say the last derby in Cologne, when we won thanks to Simon Terodde’s goal right before the final whistle. That was incredible, even despite the fact we got relegated. If I could pick one that I watched though, I’d have to say the moment when Marcel Risse scored that free kick in Gladbach. I was on the sidelines with an injury, but that was still a great moment. Overall, our record against Gladbach in the last few years has actually been quite good and we’ve played well most of the time so there have been some great memories.
There are many derbies between clubs across the league. What is so special about this one?
Horn: We are two clubs with huge fan bases. Of course we also have the regional derby against Leverkusen, we have the majority of the fans during that clash. Cologne against Gladbach has been a classic in the Bundesliga for decades where two traditional clubs with large fan bases go up against each other. That's why these duels are so explosive.
Sommer: The special thing about it is the history behind the fixture. We have opponents in the league who are geographically closer, but even as a player playing now you can’t talk about Borussia and not mention the name Hennes Weisweiler. The most important thing for us, however, is the fact that to this day we still get told all the time by our fans that these are the most important games of the year.
Gladbach are in Europe, Cologne were promoted - but is there a favourite in the derby?
Horn: It’s plain to see that Gladbach have different goals than us, but in such a derby only the result counts. You can compare it to a cup match where it's just all about getting ahead - that's what a derby is like.
Sommer: Like Timo said, the teams have different goals. We are the favourites and we like the position we’re in, but the game is never won on paper. We will only have a chance to grab the three points if we play at our best.
What are you expecting from the game on Saturday?
Horn: One that fits my earlier description. You forget everything that’s gone before and you try to get the win - that way the fans will be on your side for at least the next few weeks. That’s our goal, to put in a great performance and to make our fans proud.
Sommer: We as players, not to mention the fans, have been waiting for this game for the past two years. We know that it will be a little more emotional than other games that we’ve played over that period and we have to be prepared for that. I expect a close, intense encounter but we’re hoping to put on a show because it’s not just about the bragging rights – we need the win.
Before games like this, there can be issues off the field too. What are you expecting from your fans?
Sommer: Derbies are all about emotion, not just on the pitch but in the stands too. Unfortunately, we’ve already experienced what it’s like not to have both fan bases be a part of the game in the past. It simply wouldn’t be a derby if that became a regular thing – no fan wants to see that.
Horn: It’s important that no fan goes in to the stadium with fear or feels uncomfortable in their seat, especially if they’re with their family or children. In this respect, it’s a shame that sometimes it comes to confrontation, whether that be in our out of the stadium. I’m really happy that the fans want to put all of their energy in to supporting us, but it should stay in the stadium and it should never get out of control. We players feel the rivalry on the pitch too.