Akpoguma: "Gent are under pressure"

TSG Hoffenheim will be hoping to build on their successful start to the UEFA Europa League against Red Star Belgrade when they visit KAA Gent on Thursday (18:55 CET). Prior to facing the Belgians, Kevin Akpoguma spoke with about the opposition, the match and the congested fixture list.

Your Europa League campaign got off to a positive start against Red Star Belgrade. How did it feel to get the win?

"It was extremely important for us to kick off the group with a victory. We only have six games. We wanted to pick up points from the off rather than lag behind. Fortunately, we managed that thanks to a good performance."

KAA Gent lost their opener away to Slovan Liberec. How much did that result surprise you?

"Liberec mustn't be underestimated. They have a strong team as well. But the result was obviously quite surprising. We're familiar with situations like this in the Europa League. The group stage is always very even and you cannot afford to let names factor into your thinking. You need to get points on the board at an early stage so that you can be more flexible in the reverse fixtures."

Having finished second last season, Gent are underachieving in the Belgian League, where they currently sit 13th. What kind of game are you expecting?

"Gent are obviously under pressure to get a result. I believe that their team will play on the front foot and try to play an attacking game. That will suit us. But we need to focus entirely on ourselves and ensure that we assert our style. If we go to the limits of our performance, I'm optimistic that we can beat every team in this group."

Three years ago, you were eliminated from the group stages on your debut in European competition. How much have you benefited from the experiences you've had?

"Almost every single player in our squad has played matches on the international stage by now. That's an important factor. You always have to weigh up the situation, but generally it doesn't get you anywhere to play for draws. With only six matches, the wins are especially important. We're now more experienced and we can gauge it better."

The congested fixture list and the international calendar mean you're in action almost every three days. How do you deal with this high intensity?

"Over the coming weeks, the important thing will be to ensure we recover in the days between matches. We need to get as close as possible to 100 percent so that there are not any muscle injuries. To date, we've been implementing our plan very well and we naturally hope that it continues like this."

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