Is the long suspension of the league an advantage or disadvantage from a sporting perspective? In the case of Werder Bremen there are different possible interpretations. On the one hand, Werder did not particularly benefit from the strict constraints of training in small groups and and would have been happy to return to league action a week later. On the other hand, several players did say during the suspension that the break could have done the team a power of good. Before the league came to a stop, the North German team often failed to live up to their great potential. Nine of the last eleven Bundesliga games ended in defeat, and the team were knocked out of the DFB Cup by Eintracht Frankfurt at the quarter-final stage just before the coronavirus outbreak. Werder Bremen are currently 17th in the table on 18 points and are four points adrift from the play-off spot. However: The team from the Hanseatic city have a game in hand and that gives them a chance to reduce the deficit.
As with almost every team, a number of injured players at Werder have had time to recover. Bremen can now again rely on two defensive stalwarts who would probably not have been available for the original date of the game against the Werkself in the middle of March: First-choice keeper Jiri Pavlenka will be between the sticks and Ömer Toprak will face his former teammates. The central defender played for Leverkusen from 2011 to 2017. In addition to Toprak, Werder have two other experienced defenders in Niklas Moisander and Kevin Vogt plus a strong midfield and a wealth of attackers that was strengthened in the winter when Davie Selke (Hertha Berlin) was brought in on loan. Without doubt: This team is clearly better than the position in the table indicates.
The main man in the Bremen attack is Milot Rashica. The Kosovan is the top goalscorer in the team with seven goals and his explosive quality and finishing has roused interest from top clubs in Europe. A significant contributor to his meteoric rise: Werkself coach Peter Bosz. The Dutchman was Rashica’s first coach after he left Kosovo to join Vitesse Arnhem and he immediately made the pacy striker an automatic first choice. The 23-year-old has often played in the centre of the Werder attack this term but his coach Florian Kohfeldt restored him to usual position on the left flank in the last game before the suspension of the league (2-2 at Hertha Berlin). It remains to be seen where Rashica will start against the Werkself.
Werder will have to manage without three key players against Bayer 04. The absence of Davy Klaassen will be particularly difficult to compensate for. The midfield maestro, who played under Peter Bosz at Ajax in 2016/17, picked up a fifth yellow card just before half-time in the 2-2 draw in Berlin and will only be able to play again after the Monday night game. A setback for Werder as Klaassen is not only an important distributor in the middle of the park but also Bremen’s second highest scorer and provider in the Bundesliga after Rashica. And, in addition to left back Ludwig Augustinsson (muscular problems), Florian Kohfeldt will also be unable to utilise the super sub qualities of Claudio Pizarro. The 41-year-old striker picked up a thigh strain in training this week and will be out of action for several weeks. “It’s a bitter blow for us particularly as Claudio looked in good shape after the enforced break due to coronavirus,” Kohfeldt complained.
The season began with hopes of qualifying for Europe and now they are mired in a relegation battle – and yet, Werder have kept faith with Florian Kohfeldt. The confidence of the club in the fast-moving business of football is more than admirable. It is beyond question the club has a far bigger potential than the current performance levels of the team suggests – and, with a reflective and calm club management, it appears realistic that Bremen will be able to rediscover it. Although this is likely to be medium-term target.
Nothing appears to be more difficult after a two-month break in the league than making predictions. Nobody really knows what levels the teams will be at after weeks of training at home. One thing is definitely true in the case of Werder Bremen: This team is actually far too good to go down. It therefore appears to be increasingly difficult to imagine that the team from the Hanseatic city will not finish in the play-off spot at the very least. That could lead to a North German derby against Hamburg SV. But that is – as so much these days – just pure speculation…
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