Bastian, on Friday you will line up for FC Schalke 04 against the team you played for as a youngster. How does that make you feel?
Bastian Oczipka: "Games against Leverkusen are always something special for me as I've spent half my life at Bayer 04. I played for all the junior teams from the U11s upwards and then I went on to play for the first team. You don't forget things like that. I definitely still feel a certain connection to the club."
What's that connection like?
Oczipka: "Even though I'm not at all close to it I still somehow get to know about what's happening at the club. And if I've got time then I always find it interesting to follow the games."
Do you still have contact with Bayer 04 players or coaches?
Oczipka: "No, at least not with any of the players in the current team. I do still have occasional contact with my former youth coach Jörg Bittner."
What was your best moment in a Werkself shirt?
Oczipka: "I still remember winning the U19 Championship title in 2007. We played the FC Bayern U19s in the final and won 2-1 on a great stage in front of a full house at the BayArena. I even managed to score a goal – I scored the equaliser with my right foot (he laughs)."
Let's move on to your new club. What's your assessment of FC Schalke's start to the season?
Oczipka: We made a decent start but then we lost to two strong opponents. Nevertheless, I think we're very much on track after the difficulties of last season. Like Bayer 04, there's been a new start here and I see clear parallels…"
What do you mean?
Oczipka: "Both clubs failed to live up to expectations last season. A number of things changed in the summer including the arrival of a new coach. It takes time for players to adapt to the new way of playing and new philosophy, and then take it all in. If we keep working well and learn from our mistakes, and put them right, then I'm sure we'll be able to pick up points again soon. For that you need patience and calm. In that respect I think the club is on the right track."
What sort of game are you expecting at the Veltins Arena on Friday?
Oczipka: "It will be a tough challenge for both teams. I've watched several Bayer 04 games this season. Leverkusen have a very strong team and they've just played very well against HSV. But we are at home and in spite of all my sympathy for my former club I hope that we win at the end of the day."
Bayer 04 welcomed 14 media representatives from Africa on Friday, 1 December. The trip for journalists from the likes of Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mozambique, Togo, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Togo was organised by the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) with the goal of establishing and promoting Africa as a new target market for the Bundesliga.Show more
Bayer 04 has modernised its media working area in the stands at the BayArena and equipped it with new, multifunctional monitors. The 50 screens will be used for the first time for the fixture against Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 13 in the Bundesliga next Sunday, 3 December (kick-off: 17:30 CET) and offer the media representatives working at the BayArena on matchday numerous possibilities.Show more
Bayer 04 have little time to recover from their 2-0 win away at Häcken in the UEFA Europe League, ensuring progress to the round of 16, before their next challenge up against Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga on Sunday (17:30 CET). At his pre-match press conference on Friday morning, head coach Xabi Alonso spoke about BVB and gave a warning about not losing focus.Show more
Spirits are high at Borussia Dortmund following their impressive display and result away at AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday. On Sunday (17:30 CET), they want to keep an impressive week going with another scalp in Leverkusen. Here’s the lowdown on our next opponents.Show more