Bad Ragaz - Borussia Dortmund's pre-season preparations seem to be going very much to plan, so much so that head coach Jürgen Klopp gave the players an afternoon off at their Switzerland-based training camp after an impressive friendly showing against Bursaspor.
Focusing on defence
"Our pressing was really good. The game showed what we're capable of," Klopp said of Saturday's 4-1 victory, but it was the displays from new recruits Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was among the scorers, that added further to the coach's obvious satisfaction: "Aubameyang makes things happen up front, Mkhitaryan conjures up creative moments - and Sokratis exudes tremendous confidence at the back."
One minor downside to the occasion was 's early withdrawal with a groin strain. Merely a precaution, Klopp stressed, which Bender himself confirmed at Monday's press conference. Asked then for his own take on BVB's trio of high-profile signings, the midfielder began by complimenting new room-mate Sokratis. "He's a very pleasant colleague, quite different from out on the pitch, where he's hard as nails."
The Greek central defender will likely have a key role to play in what Bender acknowledges will be a focal point of the beaten Champions League finalists' programme over the coming weeks. Borussia conceded 42 Bundesliga goals last season, just five less than their combined total for the two years previously. "The fewer goals you concede, the fewer you need to score to win," the four-time Germany midfielder pointed out. "A compact defence that doesn't give much away has been one of our defining characteristics in recent years. We want to be more focused and disciplined in our defensive work."
Speed of the essence
"Re-internalising" and "optimising" such basics before the action gets underway in earnest, rather than any radical overhaul of tactics, is what it all boils down to, Bender stressed. Questioned about any possible lingering effects from that dramatic last-minute loss to their Munich rivals at Wembley in May, he said it had been absorbed as "part of the learning curve" and noted that "we were far less experienced than Bayern, but showed that we can match them."
As to the gap left by the departure of star Mario Götze for the Bavarian capital, the Yellow-Blacks can certainly take solace from the potential of their new signings. On top of outstanding technique, Mkhitaryan ("pretty nifty") and above all Aubameyang promise to bring even more pace to Dortmund's already-explosive attacking game. Indeed, says Bender, they go into 2013/14 boasting "probably the quickest forward line I've ever played with." The Bundesliga has been warned.