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12.04.2024Bundesliga

Our next opponents: Werder confident despite difficulties

Things haven’t been easy in recent weeks for Werder Bremen, with injuries and suspensions constantly forcing coach Ole Werner into changes. That will again be the case this Sunday as they visit the BayArena. However, Bremen still want to put up a fight against the Werkself despite missing some key players. Find out more about our next opponents here…
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Position

Bremen are without a win in six in the Bundesliga but did end a four-game losing run last weekend with a draw away at Eintracht Frankfurt. The Green-Whites took the lead through Milos Veljkovic just after the hour but were then pegged back after they were reduced to 10 men following Jens Stage’s dismissal. Werner stated after the game that he was “absolutely happy” with his team’s performance. “Great credit to the boys, who’ve kept pulling themselves together even though we’re going through a tough period. They showed everything you need away from home in terms of fighting and defending.”

Werder’s previous results had been defeats to Wolfsburg (2-0), Union Berlin, Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim (all 2-1), after a 1-1 draw at home to bottom side Darmstadt. It’s seen the northern club drop to 12th in the table after a promising start to the year that had produced a 1-1 draw at Bochum followed by wins over Bayern Munich (1-0), Freiburg (3-1), Mainz (1-0) and Köln (1-0). Among that run was also a 2-1 loss to promoted Heidenheim. Bremen found themselves as high as seventh place by the middle of February and were perhaps thinking of European qualification. Those injuries and suspensions have since halted momentum and their cushion over the bottom three has shrunk to only eight points coming into Matchday 29.

Personnel

Midfielder Stage has been key to Bremen this season and has played the most minutes of all their players (2,252), but the 27-year-old is suspended for this game and the next after his red card in Frankfurt. Defenders Marco Friedl (five yellow cards) and Anthony Jung, who serves the second match of his two-game ban after being sent off against Wolfsburg, will also miss Sunday’s game. Amos Pieper is also out for the rest of the season, meaning Veljkovic is the only first-choice member of the back three currently available. It means Werner is again forced into changes in defence, with Christian Groß and Julian Malatini likely to come in. Niklas Stark could potentially be back in the squad after his shoulder injury as well. Midfielder Skelly Alvero (calf) and striker Justin Njinmah are also sidelined. The latter is the team’s second-best scorer with four goals behind Marvin Ducksch (nine) and is out after an ankle operation.

performers

Although Werner has constantly had to adjust his back line, Werder’s defence is relatively solid and in fact the eighth-best in the division with 44 goals conceded. Michael Zetterer is the new first-choice in goal after ousting long-time No.1 Jiri Pavlenka. Zetterer ranks third for saves this season at 71.6 percent, behind Bayer 04’s Lukas Hradecky (77.9 percent) and Dortmund’s Gregor Kobel (73.5 percent). The 28-year-old doesn’t just boast quick reactions on his line but can also play from the back.

Bremen have shown strong group mentality during these difficult few weeks, and Ducksch has spoken optimistically coming into the final matches of the season: “We want to win every game and play as a unit. If we take the fighting display from Frankfurt and our play from the start of the year, then we’ll get points.” Leverkusen should also be wary in the air on Sunday, given the visitors have scored 10 of their 36 goals this season from headers – the fourth-highest total in the Bundesliga.

Problems

Two-time Germany international Ducksch is both Bremen’s top scorer with nine goals and their top provider with seven assists, but hasn’t scored in eight games. The striker said of his drought: “Goals and assists aren’t that important to me. I’ve always said that I don’t measure myself on that. I try to help the team.” The 30-year-old may also want to tone down another aspect of his game in the remaining six matches, since seven of his nine yellow cards this season have come due to dissent. One more booking will see him serve another suspension.

Prediction

Despite personnel issues and a tough run of form, coach Werner is confident coming to Leverkusen: “We’ll deal with the circumstances and will come up with a way of playing a good game and maybe causing an upset.” Suspended captain Friedl is convinced that “it will be an incredibly hard game in which we can only win. It’ll be a battle in defence, and we’ll have to take our few chances. It’s a bonus game that we don’t want to write off, but also where we need a perfect day.” The draw in Frankfurt has finally restored a good feeling in Bremen. It was a “small step forward,” said midfielder Senne Lynen. Werder would very much like to take another at the BayArena.

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