Sporting director Max Eberl talks Europa League qualification, the fight for Champions League football, an upcoming clash with Bayern Munich and squad updates.
Max, despite the 1-0 loss in Freiburg last weekend, the Foals have now mathematically qualified for the Europa League – with four matches to spare. What do you think of that?
Eberl: If you can clinch European football on matchday 30, then it’s a great achievement. We’re now eleven points ahead of sixth-placed VfL Wolfsburg. It’s still not certain whether that’ll be the Europa League qualifying rounds, the group stages or even the Champions League. But the fact that we’re definitely in Europe – and that’s for the sixth time in nine years – is really the result of the very good season that we’ve had until now.
The Foals are in fourth and have the chance to reach the Champions League for the third time. What are your thoughts on the race with Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig?
Eberl: I’ve always said that when the big teams are looking weak, we want to be there and take that chance. But unfortunately, these teams have rarely faltered this season. Bayern and Dortmund are well ahead, while Leipzig and Leverkusen rarely let themselves down and have been stable this season. So are we though, that’s why we’re in the hunt for the Champions League. But there are only four places, and five teams in with a shout. In the past ten years, Borussia Mönchengladbach have managed to get closer to the top clubs in the league. We just haven’t managed to quite get on their level, or to overtake them. Though we’re always able to make life difficult for them. We want to do that again this season. We’ve already achieved something great with renewed participation in the Europa League. Now we want to use the final four matchdays to do something extraordinary.
Losing 1-0 on Friday was a small setback in the battle for fourth. How come Borussia didn’t manage to capitalise on a good first half and get something from the game?
Eberl: The first 45 minutes was the best half of football we’ve ever played in Freiburg. We were clearly on top, but unfortunately couldn’t score. SCF were much better in the second half, besides, we looked sluggish. Of course their early goal and the excessive sending off definitely made things more difficult. With a man light, we unfortunately couldn’t threaten Freiburg.
You spoke about Alassane Plea’s sending off as a key moment in the game. Looking back, what are your opinions on the moment itself, and how have you taken the red card shown to you?
Eberl: Even now that a bit of time has passed, I’m still of the opinion that a second yellow for Plea is totally unjustified. He wants to play the ball, and just gets there a fraction late. It was neither a bad nor tactical foul. I got really upset about this on Friday evening, and made it known. So my red card was the correct decision.
You play Bayern on Saturday evening. What are you expecting from the game?
Eberl: At the moment, Bayern Munich are the benchmark for everything in the Bundesliga. They’re playing so well right now – both at the back and going forward. However, we’ll go there to get a result. If we put in a top performance – like ones that we’ve already put in this season – then we have a chance. Without a doubt, it’ll be a really tough game, but we’ve often proved that we can match Bayern, and we want to do that again this weekend.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve now had five Bundesliga matchdays behind closed doors. Can you say that the DFL’s hygiene protocols have worked?
Eberl: You can say that the protocols have worked, and also that the Bundesliga has justified it’s leading role. The restart was watched closely from all sides, some even hoped that it wouldn’t work. But, with very few exceptions, all those involved have stuck to the rules and implemented them in an exemplary manner. The games haven’t had the same emotion – due to the lack of fans, but have still showcased some very high quality football, so that in hindsight it was a good decision to get the season back underway.
In recent weeks, Borussia renewed Oscar Wendt’s contract for another year. What’s the situation for other players, whose contracts are up at the end of the season?
Eberl: First of all, we’re pleased that we are keeping Oscar for another year. Tobias Strobl informed us that he’d like to move to FC Augsburg. In Fabian Johnson’s case, it was a mutual decision not to extend his contract. Raffael is the final player whose contract is coming to an end. We’re in talks with the player and will have to see what the best solution is for all parties.
All’s still quiet in the transfer market. Do you expect there to be less transfers this summer, and will Borussia also be less active than normal due to the financial implications of coronavirus?
Eberl: The summer window will definitely be quieter. I’m sure that there will still be one or two top transfers. Though lots of clubs, us included, will have to wait at first and see how this season ends and what they have the finances to do. Of course we’re looking at new players in order to strengthen our squad for next season. We know that we’ll lose a couple of players in summer, and given that we’ll be fighting on three fronts, we need squad depth. We’re happy with the squad we have now, but want to see what signings are possible for us.