Ihlas Bebou: ''We're staying focused''
Ihlas Bebou was unavailable to TSG Hoffenheim for the first 15 games of the season, but the striker made his comeback in 2023 and has five goals to his name already. Ahead of the trip to VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday (15:30 CET/Liveticker at tsg-hoffenheim.de), the 29-year-old sat down for an interview in which he discussed his unusual position against Eintracht Frankfurt, the big goal of achieving survival and the upcoming clash with the "Wolves.''
Ihlas, you lined up on the right flank again in the game against Eintracht Frankfurt. Did you enjoy playing this role on Saturday?
"This position is not completely new to me. It's just that I've started in this role for the first time this season. In the second half, because we were a man down, I was mainly required to play as a right-back. I've probably never been so involved in defence in a game before as I was against Frankfurt. The game was extremely intense, but it was fun because we all fought together with passion and were rewarded with all three points.''
Is your defensive game aided by the fact you're an attacking player by trade, and thus know the movements?
"Of course I know the routines and I have a sense of how I would react to the defender's position if I were on the attacking side. I have played a few games on the right wing. I can use my best qualities, such as pace, to good effect there."
The 3-1 win has given you a four-point cushion from the relegation zone. How confident are you of securing survival?
"The win over Eintracht has definitely boosted our self-confidence and was enormously important for the standings. However, we also know that we are not clear yet and must continue getting points on the board. We are focused on our own performance, so that we can secure our survival in the league as soon as possible. That is our big goal."
The mood seemed really positive after the win over Frankfurt. Was there a lot of pressure going into the game, particularly in light of Schalke's win over 1. FSV Mainz 05 on the Friday?
"We were all aware of the situation. But we didn't start the game with nervousness, we were focused from the first kick of the ball and gave everything for the win. I think you could see right away that we weren't scared; we were full of courage. Our performance and the result were right in the end, so the mood afterwards was good.''
You've scored five goals since making your return from injury this year. How do you rate your form since coming back?
"It took me a while to hit my best level after the long spell on the sidelines. But now I'm back at one-hundred percent and I'm happy that I can help the team with goals and assists."
You face a road trip to VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday. What kind of game are you expecting?
''We're going up against a strong team, who will be determined to make amends after their heavy defeat in Dortmund. Wolfsburg have a shot at qualifying for Europe, while we want to take a big step towards beating off relegation. We're staying focused and want to deliver a similar performance to the one against Frankfurt.''