Dennis, you were unable to play for nine months, but have begun the winter preseason now that you are fit again. How relieved are you? And to what extent has this forcible period out changed you?
"It was of course an extremely long and difficult period of time for me. Not being able to play for such a long stretch and not even being able to train was extremely hard to deal with. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I've become a different person, but obviously you approach certain things differently and with greater awareness. I'm pleased that I'm able to fully participate in training and that I'm doing well. The most important thing for me in 2019 is to be able to stay healthy, train and play. Everything else will follow of its own accord."
So how important for you was the game against Manchester and the feeling that you are able to play at the highest level in Europe?
"I'd say it was a reward from the manager for our efforts last season. It was of course a highlight for me that the manager gave Nadlem (Amiri; Ed.) and me the chance to play in the Champions League and away at Manchester City too, even though I still wasn't 100 percent fit then. But of course matches like that are really good for your own game and your match fitness, but also for your head. That's why it was such a great thing of him to do."
"I feel good and don't have any issues"
What are your chances of being ready to face FC Bayern in the first game of the second half of the season?
"It's difficult to say where I'm at right now. I need more games at Bundesliga level in order to reach full fitness again. But I feel good and don't have any issues, which is the most important thing. A target of mine was to really launch into things at the beginning of the second half of the season. I'm now ready for the return fixtures. I want to stand on the Bundesliga turf once more."
What do you think the whole team is capable of achieving in the second half of the season? You have of course a different perspective as a player when you're out for such a long time.
"I think that our positioning on the pitch could be a lot better than it is currently. We dropped a lot of points during the first round of matches. We drew or even lost games that we should have won by two or three goals given the run of play and the number of chances we had. As far as I'm aware, only Borussia Dortmund created more chances than we did in the first half of the season. When you consider the intensity with which we play and the intensity with which the opposition plays, then the manner in which we dropped points was extremely disappointing. We must make it our goal to do better in that regard in the second half of the season. And if we achieve that, then we will finish in the top four."
The entire interview will be available in the January edition of SPIELFELD, which comes out on 18 January.