This time it was two points dropped. After two partial successes in Dortmund and Frankfurt, that Werder could live with, last Saturday's 1-1 draw at home to Hertha Berlin was a source of frustration in Bremen. "We have to pick up three points at home in a game like that if we want to achieve our target for the season," said midfielder Maximilian Eggestein in a post-match interview with Sky. The management at Werder made the target for the season absolutely clear from the first day of the season: European qualification. The last time Werder played on the European stage was nearly nine years ago and now it's time for that to change. However, following three draws on the bounce they are in twelfth place and five points behind the European qualification spots. The team coached by Florian Kohfeldt will be looking to reduce the gap against the Werkself. The following game is a home tie in the DFB Cup against FC Heidenheim.
Werder Bremen's patchy start to the season is, in part, due to numerous injuries. Christian Groß, captain of the U23 side in the Regional League, has had to help out in central defence; the 19-year-old Josh Sergent and 41-year-old Claudio Pizarro have been the only options in attack at times. Ahead of the game against Bayer 04, the Werder injury list appears to be shortening. Ömer Toprak could celebrate his return at his old stomping ground. The central defender, who played for the Werkself in 2011 to 2017, was due to start against Hertha Berlin but ended up missing out on his way back from a muscle injury. Playing against Bayer 04 could be a realistic possibility. And there is also hope that the other regular central defender may return: With captain Niklas Moisander the prognosis is somewhat less optimistic than with Toprak. There is a good chance that Yuya Osako may return up front. The Japanese made an outstanding start to the season until he was sidelined with a thigh injury. Osako may well return alongside Milot Rashica, who incidentally made his professional debut in August 2015 under Peter Bosz at Vitesse Arnhem. Recently Rashica has been partnered by the 19-year-old Sergent who has done well: The American put Werder ahead against Hertha Berlin.
Even if Toprak, Moisander and Osako all play against Bayer 04 and immediately reproduce the levels of performance before their injuries, Kohfeldt will still have to manage without several regular first team players. Ludwig Augustinsson, the first choice at left back in the Werder squad, has been sidelined for a long time after a knee operation. The same fate was shared by midfielder Kevin Möhwald and striker Fin Bartels. A particularly heavy blow was the loss of Niklas Füllkrug: The homegrown striker, who only returned from Hannover in the summer, scored twice in the first four league games before suffering a torn cruciate in training. The central striker is set to be out for most of the season.
The long list of injuries has recently led to the introduction of young players – and they have shown how much potential there is in the Bremen squad. Maximilian Eggestein (22) has long been an established key player while the recent injuries in the attack have seen Eggestein's brother Johannes (21) and Sergent (19) fill the gap. That indicates what can be achieved in the next few years. The same applies to the 21-year-old Austrian Marco Friedl who has impressed since taking over Augustinsson's position at left back. As the coach Kohfeldt, former long-term youth coach and, at the age of 37, a youngster amongst his peers, consciously promotes talented youngsters, Werder supporters do not need to worry too much about the future.
The problems with personnel at the start of the season dampened euphoria at Werder. If the return of Toprak, Moisander and Osako should achieve the desired result then that trend could quickly turn round and the target for the season become achievable once again. If all the players are fit, the squad definitely has the quality to be in the top six or seven teams in the league. Early 2020 will probably reveal if that is possible this term with the Bundesliga as tight as it is at the top.
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