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Groundhog Day may well be the first thought that comes to Lasse Sobiech's mind whenever his birthday – 18 January – comes around. Yesterday was not the first time the defender has celebrated his special day at training camp. The team congratulated him with a song in the morning, and the birthday boy returned the favour with a round of drinks in the evening.

"He'd remembered and was the first person to wish me many happy returns," said Sobiech on the evening of his 26th birthday. The person in question was roommate Marc Hornschuh. The rest of the squad soon followed suit, wishing him all the best with a chorus of Happy Birthday before breakfast.

There was to be no special treatment for Sobiech, however. "It was the same as it always is really," said the centre-back, who was celebrating his birthday at training camp for the seventh time in eight years. "I'm used to it, it's normal for me now." There were no presents either – and that went for the training ground, too, where Sobiech and his teammates were active twice on the day.

Lasse Sobiech's roommate Marc Hornschuh (right) was the first to wish him a happy birthday.

Lasse Sobiech's roommate Marc Hornschuh (right) was the first to wish him a happy birthday.

Presents were not on his wishlist in any case, as getting back to full fitness is his main priority. After not being able to train in full during the first week of the year and then sitting out the opening warm-up game against Osnabrück, Sobiech is now back on track. "I'm just a couple of percentage points short, but it'll be different story after Saturday's game," he said. "Another 90 minutes are sure to do me good and then I'll be 100 per cent fit again."

One hundred per cent will be required in terms of effort if Ewald Lienen's men are to collect three badly needed points against VfB Stuttgart when the league campaign resumes on 29 January. They are therefore going full throttle in Sotogrande. "Everyone's trying to stake a claim for a place in the squad or the starting lineup," said Sobiech. "That's apparent in every session. The competition is very high, and therefore so is the standard. For this reason alone, the camp has been a worthwhile exercise."

In Lennart Thy, Johannes Flum and Mats Möller Daehli, the Boys in Brown have gained three recruitments for the battle against relegation. "We know all about Thy's qualities," said Sobiech, who also had words of praise for the new midfield duo. "Flumi and Mats are technically gifted players who are very assured on the ball. They'll certainly be good for our game."

The defender was also encouraged by the first two warm-up matches against Tianjin Teda and FC Basel give cause for optimism, according to Sobiech. "In footballing terms it was pretty good," he said. "We're on the right track but there's still room for improvement." Sobiech and Co. will be out to show evidence of that against FC Zurich and Dynamo Kyiv on Saturday in order to go into the second half of the season on a high.


Photos: Witters