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Interview: Mirko Slomka

'We can learn a lot from Bayern'

With seven games in the next 22 days, Bayern's typically packed early autumn schedule starts on Saturday, following the two-week international break. It begins with the Bundesliga match against Hannover 96 at the Allianz Arena, a game that repeats itself only eleven days later as a DFB Cup tie. In an interview with Bayern Magazin, Hannover coach Mirko Slomka describes it as “a huge challenge to play FC Bayern twice within eleven days.” Slomka, who celebrated his 46th birthday on Thursday, aims “to give Bayern a hell of a game.” 

Interview: Mirko Slomka

Question: Mirko Slomka, first of all, a belated happy birthday. How high do you think are the chances of your team giving you a belated present this Saturday?
Mirko Slomka: “Thank you very much. Saturday has nothing to do with me. It's a very tall order playing in Munich. We respect the fantastic season with four trophies, but we’re not coming to Munich intending to leave empty-handed.  We’ll do our best, because that’s the least our fans can expect.”

Question: Hannover conceded eleven goals against Bayern last season. How much does that still hurt, and how hard is it to motivate your players against a team that won the treble last season and has already won the UEFA Super Cup this season?
Slomka: (with a smile) “I think we weren't the only ones: FC Barcelona lost on an aggregate score of 7-0 against them in two games in the semi-final of the Champions League. I think that shows how dominant FC Bayern were last season under Jupp Heynckes. We aren't focusing on Munich, we have to look at our own situation, and with nine points after four games, it’s been a great start. So we come to Munich full of spirit, prepared for the difficult task.”

Question: The only time Hannover have ever won in Munich was nearly seven years ago. Why does your team have so much difficulty away from home, even though there have been multiple wins at home to Bayern?
Slomka: “It's no secret that we’re much stronger at home than away, not only against Bayern. However, I think every team has a hard time playing in the Allianz Arena, it doesn't matter if it’s Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, FC Augsburg or Hannover 96. The key for us is to ignore what happened in the past and to show that as a team, we can be more successful in the future.”

Question: Hannover have a radically changed team for this season. What expectations does the team have, and what is the plan for the seasons to come?
Slomka: “I announced before this season that we’re aiming to make it to Europe, so we can play floodlit matches all over the continent. There are many teams in the Bundesliga looking for something similar, but I’m certain we can make it. By beating Wolfsburg, Mainz and Schalke, I think we’ve set a great foundation to reach our goal, but there’s still a long way to go.”

Question: In 2006 you made Manuel Neuer the number one keeper at Schalke. Did you expect him to come this far?
Slomka: “Manuel came with the most important attributes: Talent, determination, confidence and a strong personality, thanks to his supportive family. I was certain he was ready to play in the Bundesliga. His will to win makes him strong. So I’m not surprised how far he has come. He’s managed to turn his potential into results. I’m always happy when I meet him, because he has stayed modest and down to earth. Manuel Neuer is made to lead teams capable of winning titles.”

Question: In one and a half weeks you’re back in Munich for the DFB cup tie. What did you feel when you were drawn away to Bayern in the cup?
Slomka: “On the evening of the draw I was at the Maschsee festival after we’d beaten Wolfsburg 2-0 on the first Bundesliga matchday. Of course it isn't a treat to play Bayern so early on, but on the other hand, it is a challenge to play in Munich twice within eleven days. I like to see the positive side of things: we can learn a lot from playing Bayern and want to give them a hell of a game in both matches.”