Dortmund - Borussia Dortmund captain Mats Hummels says he’s reaping the benefits of the club’s eight-day winter training camp in La Manga.
‘A very important step’
The 2014 World Cup winner was plagued by knee, back and ankle problems during the first half of the campaign, restricting him to just ten league appearances for Jürgen Klopp’s struggling side. However, the 26-year-old has returned from Spain with his fitness intact and is now eager to help plug a defence that conceded 26 league goals before the turn of the year.
“I’m in much better shape than in the first half of the season,” Hummels told bvb.de. “In the 90 minutes against Utrecht [on Wednesday] I felt fully fit, despite the tough training sessions we’d had before the game. I felt better than I had at any point during the first half of the campaign, which is a very important step.”
Hummels was speaking after Saturday’s friendly against Bundesliga 2 outfit Fortuna Düsseldorf at the ESPRIT Arena. A late Jakub Blaszczykowski penalty rescued a draw for die Schwarz-Gelben after Joel Pohjanpalo had given Fortuna a first-half lead, and Hummels insists BVB must raise their game ahead of next weekend’s trip to third-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 18.
Score to settle
“There was good and bad in our game [against Fortuna],” he admitted. “We definitely still have to work on certain things, but we’ve also had a difficult week with two matches. We’ll be in much better condition when we play Leverkusen next week. We played better against Utrecht than we did against Düsseldorf, but I’m confident that we’ll play a lot better next Saturday.”
BVB haven’t enjoyed the best of luck against Bayer 04 recently. Klopp’s charges have failed to beat die Werkself in their last three league meetings, including a 2-0 defeat at the Signal Iduna Park on the opening day of the season. “In the last couple of years our games against Leverkusen have always been close, but we’ve had some good matches against them too,” insists Hummels. “I hope we can produce another good this time.”
Gündogan withdrawal ‘a precaution’
One player could able feature in next Saturday's clash at the BayArena is midfielder Ilkay Gündogan who, like Hummels, has endured a stop-start 2014/15 campaign so far. The 24-year-old suffered a thigh injury after 28 minutes against Düsseldorf and was promptly replaced by Matthias Ginter, but both the midfielder and his coach have played down fears that he could miss the trip to Leverkusen.
“My muscle tightened a little. I’m not sure if I’ll need an MRI scan or not, but I’m not too concerned,” said Gündogan, who missed the first seven matches of the season with a long-standing back problem. “His substitution was nothing more than a precaution,” added Klopp. “I don’t expect any further problems ahead of the weekend.”