In preparation for the second half of the season, Borussia were the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga’s ambassadors for the Bundesliga in the United Arab Emirates, but equally important for the Foals was the opportunity to warm up for the second half of the season in ideal conditions. The training camp was a resounding success on both accounts.
“It’s been very positive,” commented Borussia’s sporting director Max Eberl. “We had great weather here in Dubai, a beautiful hotel and very good conditions. The overall programme was optimal and the team was extremely motivated.”
Far from being a mid-winter holiday in the warmer climes of Dubai, though, serious work was undertaken in the comfortable heat. “When I watched them training, I always had the impression the team were fully focused and were working passionately,” reported Eberl. “Each and every player had their foot down and you could really sense the dynamism, aggression and power. Everybody wanted to prove themselves and they worked great as a team.”
There was also time for Eberl to sound out a trio of players, whose contracts are due to expire in June. “It’s well known that the contracts of Thorben Marx, Mike Hanke and Filip Daems are up for renewal and we had talks with all three of them, and each expressed how happy they are at Borussia,” said the sporting director. “We also want to carry on working with them and now we have got to see what the next steps are with each of them.”
Those next steps come against Hoffenheim on 19 January. Only then will the Foals really see if all the sweat and strain has served its purpose. “We've trained really well here in Dubai and played two good friendlies, but it’s always dangerous to claim that you are in top form,” warned Eberl. “We have used the time well to prepare ourselves. The important thing is that we don’t have any injured players and that the training camp can be rated positively. However, it’s only after you’ve played a competitive match that you really see how far the team is. Of course we want the game against Hoffenheim to be a successful one so that we can make a positive start to the second half of the season.”
Strong as Granit
Granit Xhaka, who appeared to have drifted out of favour towards the end of 2012, has been one of the stand-out figures in Dubai. The Swiss international can therefore rightly lay claim to a place in Lucien Favre’s starting eleven against Hoffenheim next weekend. “The coach has always stressed that the best will always play,” said Eberl.
“Granit has had a great training camp and he's been really determined in every session. He's very professional and positive about his situation. He's an investment for the future. He was only 19 when he joined us. He's extremely talented and right back in the battle for one of the places in defensive midfield.”
Marx is one of his rivals there and Eberl expects some disappointed faces when Favre hands in his team sheet an hour before kick-off next Saturday. “That’s part of professional football,” he said. “You can’t please everybody. We wanted to have a balanced squad and everybody has the chance in training and games to prove themselves and then the coach makes up his mind in the end which formation he picks to have the best possible success."
That, at the end of the day, is all the Borussia fans are pining for. After exceeding expectations last season, they've had a taste of European football this term and will be wanting more next time, meaning a top-six finish is a must. Gladbach went into the winter break just a point off the European pace and after such a positive stay in Dubai, they are well on course for achieving their aims.