La Manga - There were plenty of positives to be taken from Borussia Dortmund's first outing of 2015 against Switzerland's FC Sion on Tuesday.
Turning a corner
Debutant Kevin Kampl slotted in seamlessly, Nuri Sahin was back in the side following injury and, above all else, BVB started the year as they mean to go on: in victorious fashion.
At times there were some familiar question marks in front of goal, but once Under-23 talent Jon Gorenc-Stankovic put his side in front just short of the hour-mark, there was never any doubt die Schwarz-Gelben would see out the win. 1-0 was the final scoreline, even if the Ruhr district club's dominance deserved more.
While Sahin made his first start since March 2014 due to ongoing knee problems, the news of fellow midfielders Oliver Kirch and Jakub Blaszczykowski coming through the second half unscathed will have given BVB fans a welcome boon for the new year. Even Marco Reus is training again.
'We have a lot of strengths'
All in all, it would appear Dortmund are taking a turn for the better on the back of an unfathomably troublesome Hinrunde. Jürgen Klopp's side made relatively serene progress through the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, yet lost ten times in 17 outings in the league. For the first time in 30 years, they will kick off the Rückrunde in the bottom two.
"I wouldn't have thought that at the end of my career I would face the kind of problems Borussia Dortmund have had during the first half of the season," admitted BVB midfielder Sebastian Kehl, who will hang up his boots in the summer. "It's a new situation. We mustn't lose our heads. We have a lot of strengths, and should remind ourselves of them after the restart."
'Going full tilt'
Dortmund's next test ahead of their hotly anticipated Rückrunde opener at Bayer 04 Leverkusen on 31 January comes in the form of a tricky clash with Romanian outfit FC Steaua Bucuresti this Saturday. A jaunt to the Netherlands to face FC Utrecht follows on 21 January, before one last mid-winter examination at Bundesliga 2 side Fortuna Düsseldorf three days later.
"As expected, we're practising a lot here in La Manga, but we also have big plans for the second half of the season," Kehl continued. "The squad is looking very good, and it's normal to have a bit of banter in training. It's all part of the preparations. We're looking forward to the second half of the season. We're going full tilt now!"