Dortmund - Never mind the twelve-point deficit on table-toppers FC Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, the back-to-back Bundesliga champions, kicked off their second half of the season preparations on Thursday focusing on number one.

"We have laid the foundations upon which we can improve,” claimed head coach Jürgen Klopp: “We've always been a stronger team in the second half of the season and I assume we'll be the same this time too."

Preparing for Bremen opener

Sven Bender, Lukasz Pisczcek, Chris Löwe, Leonardo Bittencourt and Patrick Owomoyela were all absent due to either injuries or sickness when the group met for a lactate test at Dortmund’s Helmut-Körnig-Halle, which marked the beginning of what Klopp hopes to be the resumption of recent duty. “We want to maintain the good form we had before the break. But it's also our goal to improve things that weren’t quite perfect yet," he said.

The squad will have two more training sessions before travelling to their winter training camp in La Manga (Spain). There, the winners of UEFA Champions League Group D, which featured the likes of Real Madrid CF, Manchester City FC and AFC Ajax, will play two friendlies, one of which still has to be determined and the other one against Belgian side KV Mechelen. The Stadtwerke-Wintercup in Düsseldorf, less than a week before Borussia travel to Werder Bremen for their Bundesliga restart on 19 January 2013, will then mark their final test.

Lactate test procedures

First off, though, Klopp and his coaching team got an idea of the players’ fitness levels. Mario Götze and Co. had to do three-minute runs at five to six different paces between roughly six and twelve mph for the lactate tests, each followed by sports scientists from Saarbrücken taking small blood samples from their earlobes, which they also did after the rest and regeneration phases.

The team will examine the blood samples and measure the accumulation of lactic acid - a high lactate production indicates an overstressing of the muscles, and in the worst-case scenario, this could lead to the muscle failing. That seems a very unlikely scenario, however, given Dortmund’s industrious approach in recent years, and their results on the field can vouch for that.