Three convincing warm-up wins out of three; Africa's new Player of the Year leading the line; a fit-again Marco Reus, out to make up for lost time; and batteries fully recharged all-round: Borussia Dortmund are ready to keep on rocking the Bundesliga, with their namesakes in Mönchengladbach first up this weekend.
"We're very satisfied with how things have gone the last couple of weeks. We got back into the work mode that served us so well over the first half of the season. The conditions in (winter training camp location) Dubai were absolutely top-notch," BVB head coach Thomas Tuchel enthused.
Assuming the mantle of the departed Jürgen Klopp was certainly no easy task for Tuchel (l.) last summer but he has risen to the challenge in high style. At the midway mark, and with a virtually unchanged squad, Dortmund are second to FC Bayern in the table with just eight points fewer than they managed over the whole of last season.
The most spectacular aspect of the team's renaissance has been their attacking game. "We've scored 84 goals in all competitions so far – that's the highest tally in Europe," Reus pointed out. "We're getting more and more of our set routines off-pat and becoming increasingly confident about our ability to dominate a lot of the teams who were giving us problems before." For his own part, the 26-year-old Germany international is determined finally to put a string of wearisome injury problems behind him and make 2016 his year.
He can look forward to help aplenty in that respect from a frontline partner in the form of his life this season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Currently top of the Bundesliga scoring chart on 18 goals, the Gabon international is fresh from being crowned Africa's Player of the Year. Arriving at the club's training camp from the awards ceremony in Nigeria, Aubameyang made a brief detour to Gabon where thousands turned out on the streets to give him a reception which made him "feel like Michael Jackson."
'We want to defend second place'
The high spirits in the Dortmund ranks are by no means confined to their trophy-bagging speed merchant. "The mood in the squad is really excellent. Everyone's looking fresh out on the pitch and we're showing the necessary competitive edge – without going over the top in training. Everyone wants to stake their claim for a place. It's exactly the right kind of atmosphere we need heading into the restart," skipper Mats Hummels reported at the end of the Dubai trip.
It promises to be a hectic few months by any standards, with the Black-and-Yellows also still right in the mix in both the DFB Cup and the Europa League. "We've got tough draws in both those competitions, but very attractive ones as well. Get through them, and we can be well satisfied," said Hummels. On the Bundesliga front, the 2014 World Cup winner is in no doubt about the target: "We want to defend second place, come what may, and put even more distance on the sides behind us." Starting on Saturday evening at the Borussia Park, against fourth-placed Gladbach.