Dubai - Borussia Mönchengladbach head coach Lucien Favre didn't pull any punches in the final friendly of the Foals' winter training camp in Dubai, naming a starting eleven against Eintracht Frankfurt that could arguably take to the field in Hoffenheim when their Bundesliga season gets back underway on Saturday.
De Jong on form
Luuk de Jong, Havard Nordtveit and Thorben Marx were on target for the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga ambassadors, as they came out on the right side of a 3-2 scoreline, after Alexander Meier had given Eintracht the lead with Takashi Inui contributing a late consolation.
"I opted for those eleven players as they'd been the most impressive in training," said Favre, who was quick to stress that the battle for starting berths was far from decided. "We still have a week of training ahead of us which affords every player a chance to prove their worth. No place in the starting eleven is reserved."
Nevertheless, Friday's convincing performance against the Eagles will surely have helped the Swiss tactician in his decision-making process. One player who certainly benefited from the extra game time was Luuk de Jong. The Dutch striker played a part in all three goals and seemed particularly happy with his recent form following a difficult start to his Gladbach career.
"Intending to help"
"It was great to play from the start again," stated the 22-year-old, who missed the majority of the first-half season through injury, featuring in just seven matches, scoring twice. "I helped the team today, which is also what I intend to do in the second half of the campaign."
De Jong is well aware he faces his fair share of opposition for the lone striker role, however, with the likes of Ivan de Camargo, Germany U21 international Peniel Mlapa and Mike Hanke also vying to lead the line. "There's a lot of competition," the seven-time international explained before highlighting the benefits of such a situation. "I believe it makes everyone work harder in training in an attempt to make the decision as difficult as possible for the coach."
Eberl praises Dubai winter camp
The young striker's recent upturn in form certainly hasn't been the only positive taken from the eight-day Dubai winter camp which came to an end on the weekend. "I've seen plenty of encouraging signs," said Favre, who praised the team's build-up play, which he felt had been much improved.
Similarly, sporting director Max Eberl offered a positive summary of the eventful trip to the Middle East, where Mönchengladbach stood out as great Bundesliga representatives. "The weather was great in Dubai, we stayed in a nice hotel and enjoyed great conditions. The general programme was perfect and the team were incredibly keen in training." Unbeaten in five going into the winter break the Foals now need to capitalise on the momentum they've generated.