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We spoke to Christoph Kramer ahead of the H-Hotels Cup in Bochum and after the first two and a half weeks of summer preparations.

Chris, pre-season training has been going on for two and a half weeks now. How fit do you feel?

Christoph Kramer:We’ve been working really well so far and I’m feeling good. At the start, you sometimes think that you shouldn’t go so hard in order to protect yourself and not pick up any injuries. But when you’re on the pitch, you always give your all. It’s important to stay free of injuries, but also to have a good feeling and putting in strong performances and getting good results in the friendlies. We started with that last week and we want pre-season to continue as well as it has.

On Sunday (14:00 CEST), the team will take part in the H-Hotels Cup with international opponents. Will that be any different to playing friendlies against German teams?

Christoph Kramer:First things first, the tournament will be a welcome change to the pre-season training sessions. And it’s a bit different playing against teams from other countries; for example, a team from Spain will play differently to a team from Germany, which would play differently to a team from England. At this stage of the pre-season preparations, it’s good to play against a variety of teams from different countries. And when you swap shirts, it’s nice to be able to add a new one to the collection (laughs).

The H-Hotels Cup will take place in the Ruhrstadion in Bochum. Will it feel special for you to play there?

Christoph Kramer:Yes, absolutely. I spent two great years at VfL Bochum. I’m really pleased that we’ll be playing there on Sunday and that I’ll be able to see a lot of familiar faces again. I have great memories of my time there.

How much of a gauge are the friendlies, particularly since a lot of international players have been missing and a lot of youth players are playing instead?

Christoph Kramer:I think that friendlies are always a good measure of a team. They take place during the tough pre-season period, during which a load of training is going on and new things are being tested out. Friendlies serve a purpose by boosting team morale and giving the players confidence in the strategies and in their teammates.

How are the youth players who are joining in with the pre-season preparations getting along?

Christoph Kramer:They’re doing really well. You can see the good work that’s being done in the academy – there are always new, hungry youth players coming up. Of course there’s a difference in the level of play – it wouldn’t be great for the long-established players if there wasn’t. Nevertheless, we’ve got a strong youth system.

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