TSG 1899 Hoffenheim are working overtime at their winter training camp in an effort to stave off relegation, with midfielder Jonathan Schmid particularly determined to “avoid experiencing it again” this season after going down with SC Freiburg last term.

Hoffenheim, bottom of the Bundesliga standings with just 13 points from their opening 17 games, are currently in the South African city of Rustenburg preparing for the second half of the 2015/16 campaign. They will remain there until Thursday 14 January, and face local side Platinum Stars in a friendly on Tuesday.

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Double sessions

Eager to hit the ground running in the Rückrunde, head coach Huub Stevens has been putting his charges through double shifts to ensure they are ready for the Bundesliga restart, when they face Bayer 04 Leverkusen at home on Matchday 18.

For example, on Sunday morning training started at 9.30, with the squad split in two to play three 30-minute games. In the afternoon running exercises were on the agenda, followed by a session in the gym.

“We’re working in a very focused manner, without any distractions,” said goalkeeper Oliver Baumann. “That’s hugely important given the situation we’re in. The training’s intense but it’s going really well.”

Tricky fixtures

That is just as well, as Hoffenheim will have no margin for error once the Bundesliga starts up again. After their meeting with Leverkusen, Stevens’ charges travel to reigning champions FC Bayern München before a double-header of potential relegation six-pointers against SV Darmstadt 98 and SV Werder Bremen.

“Our situation is difficult, even if it’s quite crowded at the bottom of the table this season,” continued Baumann. “But the coaching staff have outlined us a clear plan of action and we want to follow that as a team.”

Despite last term’s promising eighth-place finish, the only objective this season is to avoid the drop, something Schmid has first-hand experience of. “Getting relegated just feels really bad,” said the Frenchman. “The final whistle blows and gradually it dawns on you what’s happened… That’s why I’m determined to give everything I’ve got in the situation we’re in. We want to take the decisive steps quickly.”

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