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Holtby focused on Schalke success

Schalke star Lewis Holtby has been one of the key figures for the Royal Blues this season. Holtby, the son of an English father, arrived back at the club after the exit of Spanish legend Raul last season, having spent loan spells with Bochum and Mainz - and he has not disappointed now he is back in the first team.

Choosing Die Nationalmannschaft over the Three Lions, Holtby has been capped two times for Germany and will captain the country's Under-21 side at the European Under-21 Championship in Israel next year.

A player whose star is on the rise, the 22-year-old will be in focus as his side come up against Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday. He caught up with Stephan Uersfeld ahead of the game.

Q: How did you manage to dominate champions Dortmund [a 2-1 win away from home] at the weekend?
I think we acted bravely and were confident. We were concentrated and committed from the very beginning; we tried to pressure Dortmund and narrow their space. There was not much space for Marco Reus and the other Dortmund players up front, and the early goal also helped our game. Overall, it was a top performance by us over 90 minutes and everyone is happy about that win.

Q: After a few attempts, Saturday marked your first derby win. What does that mean to you?
It was fantastic. Only after winning a derby do you really arrive at Schalke. The fans are delirious with joy, and beating your rival in their stadium is like winning a small title. However, we did not win the championship, but rather a very important game. We have to stay down to earth. It is important we underpin this performance.

Q:After Raul's departure in the summer, did you aim to be playing in the central attacking midfield position?
Schalke bought me for that position, and it's the position I've always played. Over the last season I played as a holding midfielder, and that was important for me as I was able to work on one-on-one situations and added to my understanding of the game. It was a very valuable season for me, and I gained more experience. But I was convinced that when I was able to showcase my abilities on the pitch, and show why I have to play in that position, I would play there. So far I have backed it up, and I will continue to try to be the best I can.

Q: Before the season, you trained individually and said you wanted to reach Champions League level. Have you reached it yet?
That's for others to judge. I tried to prepare for the season the best I could. I tried new things and considered how I can take the next step and become even better. It has been pretty OK so far, but there are still many matches to be played. It is early days, and I have to keep playing consistently. It is only Champions League level if you can keep up your performance for a complete season. I am 22, and try to improve myself every day.

Q: In your Champions League group you have four points, a solid base. What are your goals against Arsenal?
It is the Champions League and we try and win every match. To be honest, it's always a 50/50 chance, and form on that day decides. We will strive for a win on Wednesday.

Q: What are Arsenal's strengths?
We will certainly have a close look at all the players, but Arsenal play a quick and variable style of football. They have lost away to Norwich [on Saturday], and I believe our chances of beating them have increased a little. But it will not be easy.

Q: It will be your first big match in England on Wednesday, with kicker reporting you bought 20 tickets for family members. Does it put pressure on you that eyes will be on you in that match?
There's no pressure at all - instead I am enjoying the fact I can be in that situation - in a Champions League match, away to Arsenal, in front of my family. I want to show that I am a good footballer, but I don't put pressure on myself. I want to win there. It is important that we as a team play a good match and not about whether Lewis Holtby is good or bad.

Q: Did you ever consider playing for England? Did the FA contact you?
I was never in contact with the FA, it was all just media speculation. After my first game for one of the German youth teams, it was clear to me I wanted to play for Germany. I feel great with the DFB.

Q: Your contract runs out at the end of this season and you have been linked with a move to England several times [most recently Liverpool]. Is that an issue for you?
Currently, I don't think about it. Of course my contract is coming to an end, and that's always a delicate thing. But as I said before the season, it is extremely important to me that I have a good season with Schalke. I want to have success with the team, that's where my focus is. If I concentrated on other things right now, I'd be absent-minded and would not be able to play like I currently do.

Q: What are you goals for the rest of the season?
The most important thing is that I stay fit. The rest just falls into place. We want to get out of our Champions League group, and in the Bundesliga we want to stay up there and try to put as much pressure as possible on Bayern.


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