La Manga - With the sun finally showing its face after an overcast start to Borussia Dortmund's winter training camp in south-eastern Spain, the outlook on the personnel front is looking increasingly bright for head coach Jürgen Klopp too.
Gündogan comeback on hold
A chest cold kept out of training on Sunday but the 25-year-old central defender reckons he could be back in action for die Schwarz-Gelben in time for the Matchday 19 trip to Eintracht Braunschweig at the end of the month.
Hummels hopes to return to full team training in a week or so and told sports magazine kicker: “There haven't been any major problems so far, so it could work out.” He has been sidelined since suffering an ankle ligament injury in Germany's 1-0 friendly win away to England in mid-November and Dortmund have sorely missed their deepest-lying playmaker.
Ilkay Gündogan, on an even longer road to recovery having been out with a back problem since Matchday 1, also had to pass on Sunday practice with a touch of bronchitis. Prior to that, the influential No8 was forced to postpone plans for a run-out in Saturday's friendly against R. Standard de Liege after taking a knock in training. Fellow midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who picked up an Achilles tendon injury in the 2-0 win against the Belgian outfit, also subsequently got a day of rest.
At the daily press conference, skipper Sebastian Kehl, asked about his future with the club, said talks on the matter were imminent. The midfielder, who turns 34 next month, said he was “very happy” that “the BVB management have stressed time and again over the past few days how highly they value me”, adding that he was still mulling over the situation and would “listen to my inner voice” before coming to a decision.
Kehl wants improvement at both ends
Of more immediate concern to Kehl and his colleagues is addressing Dortmund's first season-half deficiencies besides coming up short in key encounters against direct rivals FC Bayern and Bayer Leverkusen: too many goals conceded and too few scored from the number of clear-cut chances created. “We're working intensively on our counter-pressing and on being more clinical in front of goal," said the defensive midfielder, "even if that's something that's pretty difficult to actually practice.”
The Monday programme was relatively easy-going, with the players given the afternoon off. Klopp, sporting director Michael Zorc and CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke all had a FIFA Ballon d'Or appointment in Zürich, with BVB's touchline tactician among the nominees for World Coach of the Year.