Stuttgart - VfB Stuttgart were the first of the 18 Bundesliga clubs to return to winter training in the new year, but only on Friday will they be heading off to sunnier climes to crank up their preparations for the second half of the 2014/15 campaign.

Die Schwaben won't be going quite as far as last January's trip to South Africa, although they can expect to be worked just as hard at the Cascade Resort in Lagos, Portugal.

'We've made progress'

"The plan is to focus on our liveliness and agility in Lagos, so that we're in top shape for the latter half of the season," explained VfB head coach Huub Stevens. "So far we've worked on tactics and endurance. We've made progress, but we're still not where we'd like to be."

Stuttgart finished the Hinrunde outside the bottom three in 15th - albeit level on points with relegation play-off place incumbents SV Werder Bremen - but travel to the Atlantic Coast in good spirits after recording friendly wins over Bundesliga 2 duo 1. FC Heidenheim and 1. FC Nürnberg.

'Carry on the hard work'

"We've got a good programme behind us already, but we need to work hard in the time we have left to ensure we're in peak condition for the first competitive game of the Rückrunde against [Borussia] Mönchengladbach," said Stuttgart goalkeeper Sven Ulreich. "We want to carry on the hard work [in Portugal]."

Stuttgart will spend a week in the Algarve, continuing the rigourous pattern of two training sessions per day. Defender Antonio Rüdiger (knee), Ecuadorian international Carlos Gruezo (thigh) and fellow midfielder Daniel Didavi (knee) will, however, remain in the Baden-Württemberg capital to continue their own specialised rehabilitation programmes.

As for the 25 players that are fit enough to make the trip, there'll be plenty to see and do down on Portugal's south coast. Lagos itself is pretty typical of the numerous resorts dotted along the Algarve, with its golden sand beaches and all-round hedonistic appeal. Stuttgart are due to fly home on 24 January.