Rottach-Egern/Tegernsee - Their training camp may be situated in the midst of some of the most idyllic surroundings in Bavaria, but the holidays are definitively over for Borussia Mönchengladbach's players. Like the rest of their Bundesliga rivals, the Foals' senior squad are currently putting in the heavy legwork in preparation for the fast-approaching start of another demanding season.
Valuable experience gained
After back-to-back campaigns which covered the gamut from near-trauma - surviving relegation by the skin of their teeth - to the high drama of making the Champions League qualifying phase, Gladbach had a comparatively 'normal' time of it in 2012/13, eventually finishing a few points shy of a UEFA Europa League berth.
Having lost the virtual backbone of his team this time last year, with defensive coordinator Dante joining FC Bayern Munich, midfielder Roman Neustädter switching to FC Schalke 04 and star forward Marco Reus plucked away by Borussia Dortmund, head coach Lucien Favre acknowledged, "We knew from the off that we wouldn't be able to repeat our fourth place of the season before." Speaking with bundesliga.com, the 55-year-old Swiss tactician did however point out that the team's eventual eighth-place finish was nonetheless their second-best showing of the past 17 years.
So what direction will the five-time German champions be heading in this time around? Dutch striker Luuk de Jong, Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka and Spanish full back Alvaro Dominguez, the big-name signings brought in last summer, all now have a year's Bundesliga experience under their belts. "Obviously we expect them to have learned from it, and to continue improving," said Favre, "but that applies to any young player, not just those three."
Fresh options going forward
New signing Raffael, by contrast, is something of a veteran in Germany's top flight, the former Hertha Berlin favourite arriving from FC Dynamo Kyiv by way of a half-season loan at Schalke. The coach anticipates that the 28-year-old Brazilian "will bring added creativity and versatility to our attacking game. He does a lot of things right. He plays simply - but that's far from simple to do."
Another attacking talent fresh on the books is Max Kruse, whose form for SC Freiburg in his debut Bundesliga season was impressive enough to earn him a senior Germany call-up. "He gives us more options as well," said Favre, "he's always hungry for victory and that's good."
Borussia and the Bundesliga booming
Turning to the bigger picture, former 24-time Switzerland international Favre unsurprisingly confirmed that "Everyone at Borussia is very satisfied with how the team, and the club, have developed over the past couple of years. I can really sense the fans' enthusiasm, and the trust of the club itself. Working in the Bundesliga's just great. The stadiums are always packed, the level of interest you encounter in Germany is fantastic, and you have a tough game to look forward to every week."
As to Gladbach's own prospects in the campaign ahead, Favre is not setting the bar unrealistically high, insisting that first and foremost his team will be seeking to "maintain the process of stabilisation. Look at Borussia's results over the past 20 years. If we're up in the top half of the table for the third time in a row, that will be very good indeed." However it pans out, with the club already having decided to halt season tickets after hitting the 30,000 mark, Favre's Mönchengladbach will once again be able to count on massive and fervent backing for their every endeavour.