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15.09.2022Bundesliga

Our next opponents: Masters of the final minutes

The Werkself play Werder Bremen for the 83rd time in the Bundesliga on Saturday 17 September (kick-off: 15.30 CEST). Newly promoted Werder are unbeaten on the road this season, have the leading scorer in their ranks and like to get going in the final stages of a match. The lowdown on our next opponents.
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Position

Not all is going to plan for the Green and Whites at home on the Weser. Werder were unable to win their third home game in succession in the league at the weekend. The team under coach Ole Werner could have secured a point against FC Augsburg in added time. However, Marvin Ducksch missed from the penalty spot. Actually unusual. Bremen like scoring late this season, very late. That started on matchday two with the leveller at 2-2 against VfB Stuttgart scored by Oliver Burke five minutes into added time. That was followed by an incredible high point on matchday three when Werder came back from 2-0 against Borussia Dortmund on 89 minutes to win 3-2 within six minutes. On matchday four, Niklas 'Fülle' Füllkrug converted a penalty against Eintracht Frankfurt on 90+2 in the final 4-3 defeat. A week later, the newcomers to the top flight secured an away win at VfL Bochum with a late brace from Füllkrug (86', 90+2'). Werder Bremen have secured their place in the history of the Bundesliga. No other team has scored five goals after the 90th minute in the first five matchdays. They could have extended that record last Saturday.

But the run came to an end against Augsburg when the FCA keeper Rafal Gikiewicz saved a penalty from Ducksch four minutes into added time. That meant Bremen had to accept a somewhat unlucky 1-0 defeat. "We weren't alert enough in our actions," said midfielder Christian Groß. Werder coach Werner found fault with his team in that they "were unfortunately not good enough in possession. We were unable to show our strengths in the game and we created too few chances." Nevertheless, Bremen can be satisfied with their start in the Bundesliga. Eight points from six games puts them ninth in the table. Werder have already clocked up 12 goals with only Bayern Munich (19) and Union Berlin (13) able to find of the back of the net more often.

Personnel

Werder Bremen, as yet unbeaten away from home, could be able to recall number one keeper Jiri Pavlenka (30) on Saturday. The Czech goalkeeper had to be substituted against Augsburg on the half-hour mark with a thigh problem but he returned to training with the team in the middle of the week. Definitely sidelined is midfielder Leonardo Bittencourt (28), who has missed the last two games due to a rib injury. His place in the starting eleven has been taken by the young Austrian Romano Schmid (22) who has just been called up to the Austria squad by coach Ralf Rangnick. Werder skipper Marco Friedl is also in the national squad. The 24-year-old defender regularly forms part of the back three with the Green and Whites alongside Milos Veljkovic (26) and new signing Amos Pieper from Armenia Bielefeld. Pieper has filled the gap left by the departure of last year's captain and former Leverkusen player Ömer Toprak who now plays for Antalyaspor. The central defender Niklas Stark, signed from Hertha Berlin, has only made two brief appearances so far.

Christian Groß (33) is the enforcer in front of the defence. Schmid or Bittencourt play alongside the Dane Jens Stage (25) in the middle of the park. The new signing from FC Copenhagen is considered to be an aggressive challenger full of running and strong in the air. "He gives us a graeter physical presence on the pitch," said Werner about the club's marquee signing in the summer. The coach favours Anthony Jung (30) and Mitchell Weiser (28) on the wings. Weiser, on loan from Bayer 04 in the second half of last season, played a big part in the Green and Whites securing their return to the Bundesliga. The Troisdorf-born defender, who has provided three assists this season, has now been signed by Werder Bremen.

Niclas Füllkrug and Marvin Ducksch are the main men up front for the Green and Whites. The two strikers scored 39 goals together last season. And Füllkrug is continuing his form in the Bundesliga. The 29-year-old is currently top scorer with five goals, along with Union Berlin's Sheraldo Becker. Werder legend Claudia Pizarro, who will play his big farewell match at the Weser Stadium on 24 September, believes his former teammate will score more than 15 goals this season. "He's a fighter, two-footed, strong in the air – he's the complete package."

Marvin Ducksch (28) has had the most shots on goal of all Bundesliga players but has lacked a bit of luck in front of goal. Nevertheless, he has provided three assists. And Werder Bremen also have a super sub in Oliver Burke who has already scored twice.

Performers

Twelve goals from six matches is a statement and shows that Bremen's strengths are in attack. Top ratings in terms of accuracy and converting chances underline that. The five headed goals also top the league ratings. "As a striker with us you know at any time in the game: We can score another goal," said Niklas Füllkrug commenting on the quality of the Green and Whites that was also often evident in the second division. Never give up. Always believe in yourselves. Keep going to the final whistle. No other club has yet scored more than seven goals in the final 15 minutes. The slow starters and impressive comeback merchants from the Weser – see above – still have more to give. That also says a lot about the strong physical condition and mentality.

Problems

A look at the goals conceded reveals where work is still required. The ball has ended up in the back of the Bremen net eleven times this term. And although, central defender Anton Pieper has the best challenging rates of all Bundesliga players with teammates Milos Veljkovic and Marco Friedl also in the top 20. The large number of goals conceded is an issue as coach Ole Werner admits. "None of us are happy with that." On the plus side, the newly promoted club kept a first clean sheet two weeks ago in Bochum and that backs up the demand from the coach "that we must do more and make more effort in and around the box."

Prediction

Sporting director Frank Baumann sees Werder as "one of the little sides" in the Bundesliga. Given the financial circumstances, the immediate priority is to stay up.

How Bremen deal with setbacks will be important. One thing is certain for Niklas Füllkrug: "We have to remain committed to the way we play even if we lose two games in succession." Coach Ole Werner, at the helm for the first time in the Bundesliga, believes his team is well equipped even though they have a huge amount of work ahead of them. "We can compete if we go to the limits of our potential." With so much North German sobriety, the Schleswig Holstein-born coach fits in perfectly with Bremen. Many people from the city have already compared him to Werder's legendary coach Thomas Schaaf.

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