Benno Schmitz speaks in an exclusive interview with Sky Sport about Cologne’s next opponent, FC Augsburg, the suspension of the coffee celebrations of Ondrej Duda and Anthony Modeste.
Sky Sport: Benno Schmitz, against Arminia Bielefeld, 1.FC Cologne did not play their best match, but most importantly: they scored three points. What needs to be improved against FC Augsburg?
Benno Schmitz: Football is a result sport, so we are very happy with the victory and the next opponents are all in the last half of the table. But this is also the hard thing: we expect a very physical and compact team that has also celebrated successes and now wants to make the league perfect. That’s why it’s going to be a very intense game. But we are prepared for it.
Sky Sport: A scene from the match against Bielefeld is particularly memorable for many people. Jonas Hector had to leave the field with a head injury and your team played with ten players for a full thirteen minutes before Hector returned. What do you think of as a player on the field when the coach does not come out as the fresh and eleventh player all the time?
Smith: Everyone knows how important Jonas is to the team. I think that’s why it was also something special we waited so long for or something unique. We might have reacted differently earlier, but everyone knows about Jonas and how important he is to our game. It could have gone faster, that’s true. That would have been better for us too, but we had a good time.
Schmitz addresses Duda: “We are all fine with him”
Sky Sport: Ondrej Duda was suspended from training during the week because he did not want to warm up further in the home game against Arminia Bielefeld. How was it received by the team?
Smith: I do not think this is a problem for the team right now. We are all fine with it. Sure he is having a hard time right now, but I think the coach or the sporting directors need to clarify this with him. Of course, he is still welcome with us.
Sky Sport: Salih Özcan is blocked with a yellow card and may not be in Augsburg. How bad is the loss for the team?
Smith: At the moment he is already playing a prominent role for us. It is therefore a pity that it is breaking away. But we have always caught everything well and Elyes Skhiri or Dejan Ljubicic, who can play him too. Therefore: We have a lot of alternatives and during the season four or five players got injured or got sick from time to time. Therefore, we will be able to replace Salihu.
Cologne dreams European Cup
Sky Sport: Three games left and everything is still possible for Effzeh as far as Europe is concerned. How big do you estimate the chances of being in a European country after these matches?
Smith: Yes, of course that would be the wish and everyone dreams of it. But as the last match showed: Probably not the most beautiful matches and in the end it is the naked results that matter. For Stuttgart and Augsburg it has to do with staying in the league and that is why it will be very intense. It will not necessarily be a nice game against the FCA, but of course we want to get three points.
Sky Sport: Recently the coach said that the pressure on the team is now logically increasing. Do you feel more pressure than usual?
Smith: It’s a very positive pressure because we can just win something. Last year was a different situation. You enter games without confidence and now you do not. Nobody expected us and we can only win something. This is how we get to games. If it only finishes in eighth place, then of course it is a shame because we are close. But then so be it. Everyone dreams of Europe and accelerates. We have fun together and then we want to end it as best we can.
200 thousand fans want to go to the stadium against Wolfsburg
Sky Sport: In your opinion, how does the coach handle these crucial weeks? For him, the war for Europe is also new. Does he have a lot of one-on-one conversations?
Smith: No, I think we treated it similarly throughout the season, from day one. Now the pressure is gone because you have already achieved your first goal. All that comes now is a bonus and a “candy”. That’s why nothing is actually different and we continue to have fun together.
Sky Sports: There were over 200,000 ticket requests for your last home game against VfL Wolfsburg. How was it received by the team?
Smith: I happened to hear it today, and this is an impressive number, of course. It shows how much the club is loved here and how everyone is connected to it – in bad times and in good times. That is why it is something very special. This is another special end for us and we hope to close it with a positive note.
Cologne residents like coffee from Modeste
Sky Sport: A big theme was the last home game against Arminia Bielefeld and Anthony Modeste’s coffee celebrations. Did you know in advance and how the team reacted? The coach did not think that the action was so funny …
Smith: I think there may be instructions somewhere you need to follow (laughs), but in the end we laugh about it. As a team you should also say: You do not always have to look at everything so closely. This is Tony’s business. Here, too, I think he may be reprimanded by the coach or sports directors for discussing it with him. Therefore it is not our topic.
Sky Sport: Does coffee at least taste good?
Smith: We have him on the team and here in Geißbockheim. Yes, we are doing very well!
The interview was conducted by Marlon Irlbacher.
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