On Saturday, the Borussia Dortmund U23 squad got their 2020 winter training camp underway in Beja, Portugal. Coach Mike Tullberg and the group made up of 17 outfield players plus goalkeeper Lucien Hawryluk will spend the week in the small town two hours south-west of Lisbon intensively preparing for the second half of the Regionalliga season.
Not long after their arrival at the hotel on Saturday afternoon, the BVB squad made the five minute walk down the road to the training pitches. The players completed a couple of drills before returning to the hotel, where an unexpected visitor awaited them: the mayor of Beja. There can be no doubt that the Black & Yellows are warmly welcome at their home for the week.
On Sunday morning, coach Tullberg greeted his players on the training pitches and got the first real session under the Portuguese sun underway. The focus was placed on set-pieces, one-on-ones and tactical discussion. Speaking at the close of the session, the head coach shared a few insights into his plans for the coming day: ''At the moment we're working on playing with three at the back. We tried out this system in the recent friendly against Uerdingen and will continue to work on this in the days to come. We're an U23 side that's faced with a lot of chopping and changing due to players moving up and down from the first-team squad, so it's important that we have a lot of flexibility in how we do things,'' said Tullberg, going on to add: ''We're obviously going to continue to place a lot of emphasis on fitness. If we're to play football the way we want to do, then we have to be able to cover a lot of ground and do a lot of sprinting. We have to make big improvements in this area.''
Five U19 players on board
The presence of Ramzi Ferjani, Reda Khadra, Alaa Bakir, Luca Unbehaun and Immanuel Pherai means that a total of five U19 players are in attendance at this year's U23 training camp. ''Our working relationship with the academy is absolutely outstanding. Over the past few months, we've been making sure to include U19 players in one of our training sessions each week. This means that every player gets the chance to integrate themselves into the group and show what they're capable of. We're delighted to be able to take five players from the academy with us to Portugal. They've all taken to it really well and the rest of the lads are happy to have them in the squad. It's important that we have close ties not just with the first-team squad; but also the U19 side led by Michael Skibbe,'' said Tullberg.
''It was a brilliant experience''
On Sunday afternoon, seven players who had been part of Lucien Favre's first-team training camp in Marbella arrived in Beja. no doubt fatigued after a six hour bus ride. Among this group was Chris Führich, who moved back to BVB in the summer after a spell with the 1. FC Cologne U23 side. ''It was a brilliant experience, I was able to learn so much. It's made me hungry for more,'' said an enthusiastic Führich. Of all the things he experienced in Marbella, one stood out in particular for the young midfielder: ''The speed of action, the pace at which everything happens - it actually gives you a headache to begin with. There is such a difference in speed and intensity at that level. It's almost incomparable with anything I'd previously experienced.''
When asked whether or not his taste of the first team would make it difficult to adjust back to life in the Regionalliga, Führich was quick to respond: ''No, absolutely not. Two back-to-back weeks of training camp is obviously hard work, but now I'm determined to replicate the level of performance I showed in Marbella. I want to give it everything I can, show I deserve to be there and, who knows, maybe I'll be called up again.''