The Borussia Dortmund U23s have been nothing if not thorough in their preparations for the return of Regionalliga action after the winter break. In addition to training camp in Portugal, coach Mike Tullberg's side also played two warm-up matches on home turf. The Danish coach is pleased with how everything has gone and is looking forward to a successful second half of the season.
Just like their counterparts in the first team, the Borussia Dortmund U23s got their mid-season preparations underway at the start of January. After going through several fitness-intensive sessions, Tullberg's team faced their first warm-up match with the visit of prestigious third-tier outfit KFC Uerdingen. The young BVB side certainly gave a good account of themselves, but it wasn't enough to avoid a narrow 1-0 loss. Despite the result, the Black & Yellows will take much encouragement from a strong performance, particularly in the second half.
Focus on stamina
Four days later, the squad departed for training camp in Portugal. As was the case for the first warm-up match, several players from the U19 set-up were involved. With the weather conditions perfect, Tullberg was determined to focus on improving his side's tactical flexibility as well as continuing to work on physical fitness. In addition to the standard four-man defensive set-up, the team also experimented with a three-at-the-back system in order to gain increased adaptability in defence.
Pre- and mid-season preparations are of course synonymous with fitness work, and it goes without saying that Tullberg's charges were forced to sweat under the Portuguese sun. Fitness coach Alexander Ulbricht put the players through some gruelling running sessions: ''We placed more focus on stamina than on strength,'' said Ulbricht, going on to add: ''During training camp the boys have run over 12km more than they would in an average week back in Dortmund.''
Wanner and Tigges on the scoresheet against Meinerzhagen
Head Coach Mike Tullberg was delighted with how the week's training had gone, with the U19 players who joined the squad being singled out for particular praise. Perhaps the only negative note was the fact that a few players were struck by injuries and illness, which meant that plans had to be chopped and changed. In the build-up to the camp, Tullberg had continuously stressed the importance of flexibility in playing styles. Speaking at the end of the week, it's clear he felt the group managed to make considerable progress in this regard: ''On the offensive side, a lot of things have come together nicely this week. But we still have to up our level when it comes to defence,'' said the Dane. Both Tullberg and his Sporting Director Ingo Preuß are looking ahead optimistically towards the return of Regionalliga action: ''Hopefully the hard work in Portugal will reap dividends throughout the second half of the season,'' said Preuß.
The U19 players that joined the group for training camp and the warm-up matches - namely Bakir, Pherai, Ferjani and Khadra - will drop back down to the U19s squad but will nonetheless have the chance to regularly train with the U23s.
In their final warm-up match after their return from Portugal, BVB once again put in a strong showing and were rewarded with a 2-1 win over a strong Oberliga outfit - RSV Meinerzhagen. Meinerzhagen went into the match on the back of an impressive away win over Regionalliga leaders SC Verl, but goals from Dominik Wanner and Steffen Tigges meant it was the Black & Yellows who emerged victorious. ''We played some good football in the first 60 minutes, but what impressed me most was how we played without the ball. You can see how much we've been working on this side of things.''