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After 11 days in Sotogrande in southern Spain, during the which the Boys in Brown continued their preparations for the second half of the season, head coach Ewald Lienen can look back on a positive training camp.

"Thanks to the quality of the pitches and the weather we were able to work on a lot of different things in Sotogrande," said Lienen. "We needed to find the right balance between work and recuperation and so as well some high-intensity days with two sessions we also had some rest days. The warm-up matches are incredibly important. We wanted to be fresh going into them and so we reduced the workload accordingly on the day before the game". And despite the two defeats in the final two games against FC Zurich (1-3) and Dynamo Kyiv (1-3), Lienen was satisfied with the performances of his team as a whole. "I'm happy with the progress we've made here in Sotogrande," he said just before departing for Germany.

After almost two months out with injury (MCL tear in his knee), Christopher Buchtmann returned to the training ground in Spain. "Buchti's a key player for us," said Lienen. "He was out for a long time but the knee looks stable." Robin Himmelmann (muscle tear) resumed training as well. "He's also well on the way back to fighting fitness," a delighted Lienen added.

Ewald Lienen had lots of positives to jot down in his notebook.

Ewald Lienen had lots of positives to jot down in his notebook.

Philipp Ziereis, in contrast, had to leave Sotogrande early due to illness. "He'd worked so long to get back into the team so I fell really sorry for him," said Lienen of his defender, for whom the Stuttgart game will come too early. Lienen will also be without Aziz Bouhaddouz, who is with Morocco at the Africa Cup, but new signings Lennart Thy, Johannes Flum and Mats Møller Dæhli leave him in an optimistic mood: "I think we're well set. It was important to strengthen the squad. We have lots of alternatives and different options now. Who plays will be down to the attitude and physical condition of the players."

Asked whether his charges have the right mentality for the battle against relegation, Lienen said: "I see a squad that is highly motivated and understands what's at stake. The lads are sticking together, working together and helping each other. They are extremely committed in everything they do. We got back on the right track before Christmas and we've continued along that path during the winter break."