Höwedes feeling positive

Schalke’s captain Benedikt Höwedes is looking forward to Thursday’s Europa League game in the Toumba Stadium, where he has played once before, albeit in front of no fans. The 28-year-old speaks to about the game against PAOK, the previous meeting between the two sides and reasons for the Royal Blues’ recent upturn in fortunes.

Benedikt Höwedes, you’ve already played once in Thessaloniki, in August 2013 in the Champions League, in an empty stadium…?

Yes, I remember that so called ‘ghost game’ well. We won 3-2 and qualified for the group stage. Therefore, I’m looking forward to going back to the Toumba Stadium.

This time it will be a full house. Are you ready for an intense game?

We’ve experienced explosive atmospheres in the past: against Galatasaray in Istanbul, for example, as well as in other stadiums. We know what to expect and must not be intimidated. On the contrary, we need to turn it to our advantage and use it as motivation. At the end of the day, these are the sorts of games that really excite you as a player, as you get to experience the atmosphere in a different country. 

What do you want from the first leg?

We’re playing well at the moment and so far in the Europa League this season, we’ve been good. We’re confident that we can get a positive result and put ourselves in a good position for the second leg at home. I’m convinced we can take something from the game in Thessaloniki. We shouldn’t exit this competition at the last 32 stage.

The team’s form has picked up of late. What do you put the recent success down to?

We’ve started playing better football. I think the game in Munich was something of a turning point, much like the game against Mönchengladbach in the first half of the season. Against Bayern we were very brave and showed how well we can play. Of course, that gave us a huge confidence boost which was apparent in the games against Sandhausen and Berlin. We have to carry on in the same fashion.