Paqarada: "The fans can tease an extra couple of per cent out of us"
Friday, 23. July 2021, 15:00 Uhr
With the Boys in Brown returning to league action against Holstein Kiel on Sunday (13:30 CET), Leart Paqarada can hardly wait to run out in front of an expected 8,900 fans at the Millerntor. The left-back, who has started the campaign against Kiel three times in the last four seasons, expects it to be an exciting matchup between two quality teams.
"It was strenuous like every pre-season, but I came through it well," said Paqarada after almost five weeks of preparations. "If you stay healthy, like I do, and notice you're feeling fitter and fitter, you have reason to be satisfied. We did a lot of tactical and individual work and also focused on rectifying our mistakes from last season, of course."
The Boys in Brown remained unbeaten in four pre-season friendlies, and while Paqarada did not want to read too much into those results he does feel they will serve as a confidence booster. And in respect of the dress rehearsal against Hertha BSC, the left-back said: "In general, it looked really good, but there were some details for us to work on in training over the last few days. Overall, though, we take a good feeling with us into the opening game."
Paqarada also has a good feeling going into his second season at the Millerntor. "I didn't get off to the best of starts last year but the second half of the season was much better," he said. "It's good for me not to expect too much of myself. I simply want to carry on where I left off last season." Set pieces are a part of that equation. Against Hertha he delivered the free-kick from which Simon Makienok put the Boys in Brown 2-1 ahead as well as the corner from which Daniel-Kofi Kyereh had a goal disallowed. "Set plays can decide a game and are crucial in the second division, where lots of games are very tight affairs. I see it as my job to inject quality into our set pieces."
The left-back is looking forward to demonstrating that quality on Sunday against a Kiel side he rates very highly. The Storks narrowly missed out on promotion last term and Paqarada expects them to be up there again, despite the departures of key performers Jonas Meffert (HSV), Jae-sung Lee (Mainz 05) and Janni Serra (Arminia Bielefeld). "They were the mainstays of their team, but Kiel have added a lot of quality as well and will put out a strong side. Both teams stand for attractive attacking football, but it will be just as important to stay solid at the back and give as little away as possible. We're aiming to be pro-active, just as we were against Hertha BSC for long periods."
The Kosovo defender continued: "Sunday will show how well we worked in pre-season and what we've taken from the strong second half of last season. We have a cracker to begin with and we're really looking forward to it." Paqarada is also looking forward to playing in front of fans again. "It was a special feeling to have fans in the ground again in pre-season," he said. "We'd almost got used to playing behind closed doors, so it's great to have the fans back. Hopefully the numbers will increase over the course of the season. We're all really looking forward to that moment. The fans can tease an extra couple of per cent out of us. We want to make a successful start to the season and that's how we're approaching the game. We'll be working hard to take all three points."