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Ahead of Hoffenheim vs. Bayern: Interview with Richards and Stiller

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The list of Hoffenheim figures who have a history with Bayern is long. Head coach Sebastian Hoeneß worked at the FC Bayern Campus for three years and led the reserve team to a historic 3. Liga title as a promoted team in 2020. Defender Chris Richards, 21, and midfielder Angelo Stiller, 20, were part of the title-winning team. Sebastian Rudy, 32, and 18-year-old defender Justin Che have also donned the Munich jersey in the past. "I know what it's like to leave home. I always try to do a lot with him off the pitch," said US international Richards about compatriot Che in an interview with fcbayern.com. "He's like a younger brother to me." Che is on loan at Hoffenheim from FC Dallas, Bayern's partner club, while Richards is loan from Bayern -- for the second time.

Although Alabama-born Richards will miss Saturday's showdown against Bayern (15:30 CET) due to an ankle injury, Munich-born Stiller is available to play. The left-footer spent 11 years at FCB before switching sides last summer. In an interview, Richards and Stiller discuss the big match, their education at the Campus, WhatsApp groups with Bayern players and career highlights.

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The interview with Chris Richards and Angelo Stiller

Servus both! On Saturday, the league leaders are away to the team in fourth. How do you rate Hoffenheim's chances?

Chris Richards: "It's always a big game when you play against Bayern. Ange and I were at Bayern ourselves, so the match means a little bit more for us. Also because we played together with a couple of the players -- Phonzie and Jamal, for example -- for the reserves. Munich are in good form and have top players. Nevertheless, we want to get something."

Angelo Stiller: "I was at Bayern for a very long time, so I'm really looking forward to the match. It's always something special and it makes you a tad more motivated."

What are the most important qualities you learned during your time at FC Bayern?

Richards: "Definitely the winning mentality. At Bayern you play in the Champions League every year, you contest the title in the Bundesliga and the cup. They want to stay at the top year after year. It's difficult to get to the top, but it's even more difficult to stay there. I learned that I have to bring my best performance in every match."

Stiller: "For me it's the 'Mia San Mia' mentality. That's what I grew up with. I learned at the Campus what it means to play for FC Bayern. During my time at Bayern, I appreciated wearing the badge on my chest every day."

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Which moments in a Bayern jersey are your favourites?

Richards: "The 3. Liga title in 2020 with the reserves is certainly up there, as are my full debut against Hertha BSC with an assist for Robert Lewandowski and my first start in the Champions League against Salzburg. I'll also never forget my first derby against 1860 Munich for the reserves, the atmosphere was breath-taking."

Stiller: "Obviously the 3. Liga title is the first thing that comes to mind for me too, after an awesome second half of the season. My Champions League debut at Atlético Madrid was also really special. I always enjoyed the many Youth League games as well *(Ed.: the 2019/20 Youth League season was the best in Bayern's history; Stiller was the top provider in the competition),*where you got to measure yourself against the best talents in Europe. Unfortunately we narrowly missed out against Zagreb in the last 16 in 2020."

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Richards has fond memories of the reserves‘ derbies against 1860 Munich as well as other highlights.

Chris, you're currently on loan at Hoffenheim for the second time. Angelo, you signed permanently for TSG in summer 2021. How do you both reflect on this move?

Richards: "Obviously the coach was a factor. I already knew Sebastian Hoeneß from our time together at the Campus. TSG is a great club which is ideal for a player to develop. The mood in the squad is really good, we want to win every game. Who knows what will come of it in the end. European competition would be a great success for TSG."

Stiller: "To be honest, I'm extremely happy, I'm really enjoying it here. I was pleasantly surprised because I didn't know at the start how much playing time I'd get. We have a large squad but I'm playing -- and starting -- regularly. A lot of our current success is down to our coach; we always try to find footballing solutions on the pitch, which is great fun. We have brotherly relationships with each other. We all stick together in order to be successful."

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Angelo Stiller feels thoroughly happy at his new club.

Are you still in contact with old teammates from FC Bayern?

Richards: "Yes, particularly with Alphonso Davies and Jamal Musiala. We speak to each other every week. We also have a WhatsApp group with former Campus players, which Joshua Zirkzee and Bright Arrey-Mbi are also in."

Stiller: "I'm mostly in contact with players from the reserve team, such as Jahn Herrmann, who I've known for 12 years, Jakob Mayer and Timo Kern. I'm also in touch with Malik Tillman. I hope I see him on Saturday."

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Third division champions! Stiller (far left) and Richards (far right) celebrate the sensational title win in 2020 with the reserves and coach Sebastian Hoeneß.

How would you describe the other one and his development?

Richards: "For Ange it was a great move to go to Hoffenheim -- even though it's really hard to go from the third to the first division. He's getting goals and assists and does a lot of important stuff. In America we'd call him a 'grown man footballer' now. He's made the step up and become a Bundesliga player."

Stiller: "It's just fun to play with Chris. Whenever I hear 'Ange, left' or 'Ange, right', I know exactly what's going on. We just know each other well. There aren't many players who are stronger in the challenge than Chris. He's a beast. On the ball, too, he's developed strongly through his education at Bayern. He's got two good feet. He's made huge strides in the last few years."

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Chris played 90 minutes in the 4-0 defeat in the reverse fixture, Angelo was subbed on. What recollections do you have of that?

Richards: "I am still a Bayern player but on that day I was wearing blue. It's an unusual feeling when you're the opponent and you're playing in front of friends against friends like Jamal in an awesome atmosphere at the Arena. It was a wicked experience but unfortunately we lost."

Stiller: "My whole family were in the stadium. That really pleased me and I got to play a few minutes at the end. It was extremely special to play at the Allianz Arena, even though I almost gave a goal away at the end (grins). Playing in front of my family at that stadium was one of the biggest highlights for me so far."

What gives you confidence that it will go better for you in Saturday's match?

Richards: "We all need to be there for each other and play our game. Hopefully we'll keep a clean sheet.

Stiller: "A lot of things have to come together. We need Bayern to not have such a good day and we need a perfect day and to make the most of our chances. We'll certainly have to survive some dicey situations. We have something about us, so we need to attack with confidence and be brave going forward."

Hear what coach Julian Nagelsmann had to say ahead of the trip to Hoffenheim: