‘We're chasing again’

One point and five goals separate the Werkself from a Champions League spot with two games to play before the end of the season. Heiko Herrlich explained the current state of play at the pre-match press conference on Friday morning ahead of the last away game of the league campaign at Werder Bremen (5 May, 15.30 CET). A victory is almost essential to maintain the chance of playing in Europe's premier club competition next season.

"We are now in a situation where we depend on other results to get back to fourth place," said the Werkself head coach referring to VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund – opponents for TSG Hoffenheim in the next two fixtures. At the same time, Herrlich made it clear the team's own performance is a higher priority than the rivals' results: "We're chasing again – and now Hoffenheim have something to lose but we shouldn't focus on other teams. We have to look at ourselves: When we've lost games that had most to do with us rather than the opposition. We have to remain focused," And the performance levels required are clear. "When we play to the maximum of our potential then it's always difficult to beat us, perhaps with the exception of Bayern Munich," said the 46-year-old.

Three sidelined, A question mark, A returnee

The entitlement to make that statement is evident from the away record of his team: After the previous 16 games on the road, the Werkself are second behind the Champions League semi-finalists from the Bavarian  state capital. "We've often played really well away from home and we don't need to be afraid," said Herrlich. Bayer 04 have already beaten Werder Bremen twice (1-0 in the league and 4-2 after extra time in the DFB Cup round of 16) – both times the coach  talked about a "very, very, very, very  difficult task" against the Green and Whites. The same again this time. "Since Florian Kohfeldt has taken over as coach, Bremen have not lost at home. For that reason, it is a particular challenge but I have absolute confidence my team can win the game." The foundations are clearly there and the unnecessary 1-0 defeat against VfB Stuttgart has been dealt with.  "We actually performed well again Stuttgart but we failed to score. Now it's all about belief. Up to now, we've responded very well to setbacks and that's why I'm very optimistic," said Herrlich.

The man from Mannheim does not have any doubts in spite of the absence of Jonathan Tah (hip), Joel Pohjanpalo Rehab training after an ankle injury)  and Sven Bender (muscular problem) plus a question mark over the appearance of Lars Bender (muscular problem). "I've always stressed we have to make up for absences from the team. Regardless of the background to the game, we have to produce a top performance at Bremen. Last Saturday, we defended well with three regular starters from the usual back four," declared Herrlich in praise of the newly formed defence built around Julian Baumgartlinger. Nevertheless, Herrlich is hopeful the skipper will respond well in the final pre-match training session and be available for the trip to Bremen. Wendell will definitely travel to Bremen. The Brazilian full-back has recovered from an ankle injury suffered in the game against RB Leipzig and he as been able to play a full part in training. "Depending on the course of the game, we may be able to play him," said Herrlich looking at naming his starting eleven," although he was pessimistic about him making a start. 

fan campaign is great

Asked about the forthcoming #FinallyRed fan campaign at Bremen, called for by NK12, Fan Liaison and Bayer 04, the 2,500 Werkself supporters in the away section at the Weser Stadium are asked to wear red, said an enthusiastic Bayer 04 coach. I was aware of the game against FC Köln last season and also in preparing for the Bremen match. I think it's a great idea that our fans will be completely in red," explained Herrlich before he added with a wink:"I've decided not to wear red tomorrow but instead to wear the usual black kit on the sidelines. There are two reasons for that: On the one hand, red makes me look very pale – it doesn't suit me. On the other hand, I heard a report on WDR this morning that women increasingly wear red in the spring and that the colour subliminally signals receptiveness. If I was to wear red on the bench that might indicate receptiveness to one person or another – so that's why I've chosen to avoid it," The Werkself coach had the last laugh before he left the Media Centre at the BayArena to start final preparations for the Bremen match.


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