Bernd, on the road to the DFB Cup final we are up against our bogey team in this competition Werder Bremen: The six previous cup games against the second most successful club in this competition have ended in six defeats for Bayer 04. High time to improve this record, wouldn't you agree?
Bernd Leno: It will do us good to take Werder Bremen very seriously. The team has been shaken up since the arrival of the new coach. Their performances are improving and in the 1-0 win in December we saw how difficult it is to beat Werder. On the other hand, it is true we have a score to settle with Bremen in this competition. Our motivation is very high to overcome this hurdle at our own ground and progress to the semi-finals.
How important is the DFB Cup to you this season?
Leno: The DFB Cup is our European competition this season. That's applied since the first round in Karlsruhe. We're really up for this competition. It gives us a great chance of winning a title. That's almost impossible in the Bundesliga. Let's not forget: I definitely want to experience another cup final in Berlin.
Leno: Yes. I was at the Cup Final between Bayer 04 and Werder Bremen in 2009.
As a fan?
Leno: No. With a Germany youth international team. I can remember the atmosphere really well. The Olympic Stadium is completely different than with a normal Bundesliga match. This time I want to feel that special thrill as a player. Particularly as Kies has raved about that experience to us on several occasions. It would be massive if we could do that again for the end of his career – and, of course, bring the Cup back home with us.
You were in the Werkself side for the quarter-finals of this competition in 2014, 2015 and 2016 but did not manage to make it to the last four. Which Cup exit was the most disappointing?
Leno: For me it was going out against FC Kaiserslautern (2014, editors note). We didn't get anything right in the 120 minutes against them. Then they missed a penalty in extra time but we didn't exploit it. Instead they scored the winner just before the end. Unbelievable. That annoyed me for a long time.
We hope it'll be different today. Bremen are fighting against relegation in the league but in the Cup Werder have knocked out two Bundesliga sides in the wins against TSG Hoffenheim (1-0) and SC Freiburg (3-2). What sort of game are you expecting?
Leno: We'll probably have to be patient. Bremen won't do us the favour of going all out on attack. They will keep it tight at the back and look to play on the break. We have to be prepared for that. We can't afford to lose our heads and be too hectic. Our last home game against Mainz is definitely a valuable lesson in that direction. We were patient then too and were rewarded for our disciplined display after the break. We want to carry on from there.
What do you think the atmosphere will be like at the BayArena tonight?
Leno: The atmosphere has been really outstanding this season. I get the impression the experiences from last season have done us good. Of course, all the defeats were not good and everybody would have been happy not to have performed the escape act at the end of the season. But when we were up to our necks in it, the fans and team came together. That was start of something there were still benefiting from today. For example in the home game against Mainz. We were totally on top but couldn't score and went into half-time with the score at 0-0. There were no whistles, no moaning. Instead full support from the fans which we were able to repay with two goals after the break.
What part do fans play in knockout games like today's?
Leno: They play a big role. Knockout games usually provide special excitement. And if the game's up in the air then nerves can come into play. When your own fans help you in a situation like that then it's worth it's weight in gold. That support can make the difference required to win out in the end.
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