Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka will be taking more than a passing interest in the Revierderby between Schalke and Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
Aside from feeling a close affinity for the club where he spent five years before moving to Bayern on a free transfer in summer 2018, the 23-year-old Germany international is hoping the Royal Blues can do the defending champions a big favour by getting one over on the hitherto unbeaten Bundesliga leaders.
"Personally, I think it's a big shame it isn't the late game on Saturday, because then I could have watched it," Goretzka told Sport1 of the upcoming derby. "I'll be delighted if Schalke win, though. It'd be a big help to us in terms of the standings."
'Nuremberg a must-win game'
Kicking off at the same time as former club Schalke, Goretzka is set to come up against lowly Nuremberg in the Bavarian derby. Although a home banker on paper, Bayern go into the contest having not won at home in the league since September and with the added pressure of needing to claw back a nine-point deficit on Dortmund. After dropping points on six occasions so far this term, Goretzka knows any further slip-ups could have disastrous implications for the record champions' title defence.
"Obviously we want to win," affirmed Goretzka. "We're also in a situation where we have to win. We've come in for some criticism, but football can be fickle. The coaches, in particular, tend to get a lot of stick come when things aren't going well, but everything's fine again if the results are there. Then the focus is on things that are working well."
'Kimmich is world-class'
One such area at Bayern is the budding midfield pairing of Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich. The Germany teammates added a welcome slab of meat to the defensive bones at Werder Bremen last weekend, as coach Niko Kovac reacted to a three-match winless run by switching from his preferred 4-1-4-1 formation to the 4-2-3-1 that served the club so well under predecessor Jupp Heynckes for most of 2017/18. Bayern duly prevailed 2-1.
"It's gone well so far," Goretzka explained. "I've played alongside Jo in midfield before, for the Germany U21s. We complemented each other well back then, too. After that, he was repurposed as a right-sided defender for club and country, and he became a world-class right-back. Now he's back in midfield, and he's also doing a very good job.
"Obviously it's an important position. The coach has put us there to bring things in line and make the defence a bit more compact. My attacking game suffers a bit because of it, but the success of the team is the most important thing. It works best if I'm the No.6, I enjoy that role."
'I'm on the right track'
Goretzka has made 18 appearances for Bayern in all competitions so far this season, and featured in Germany's final two outings of the calendar year. Despite admitting to taking his time over the decision to move to Munich, the former Bochum youth product is in no doubt he made the right choice.
"I needed to be 100 per cent about it," Goretzka recalled. "I was criticised for it, but I needed to know the timing was right, and it was. My biggest fear has always been not realising my full potential. That's why I push myself to the limit. You have to perform well - and consistently. I think I'm doing that at the moment. I'm on the right track."
'German football will miss Arjen Robben'
While Goretzka has his whole career ahead of him, Bayern legend Arjen Robben, 34, recently announced that he will end his ten-year association with the club at the end of the 2018/19 campaign. Himself a long-time admirer of Robben, Goretzka says Bayern are determined to give the decorated Flying Dutchman a fitting send-off.
"Before I joined Bayern, I was always in awe of what he did on the pitch," Goretzka revealed. "He brought and guaranteed success. It's a shame for German football that he won't be around any more, but first and foremost, we should be grateful to him and make sure, as a team, it's a good final year. He's earned it."