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24.11.2023Bundesliga

Our next opponents: Werder on the way to greater stability

Bayer 04 and Werder Bremen meet for the 85th time in the Bundesliga on Saturday 25 November (kick-off: 15.30 CET). The overall record is still in favour of Werder Bremen (27 wins, 34 draws, 20 defeats) but the Werkself are ahead in terms of goal difference (134 to 127). And the Green and Whites have only won one of the last 12 games against the Black and Reds. The lowdown on our next opponents.
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Position

After three games without defeat, with Werder Bremen picking up five points, the team have made up ground in the table. The Green and Whites were fourteenth on matchday eight just two points ahead of the relegation spot. The team led by coach Ole Werner are now in eleventh place after the 2-0 win against Union Berlin and the two 2-2 draws away to VfL Wolfsburg and at home to Eintracht Frankfurt. The gap to seventeenth place is now five points. Not yet comfortable but nevertheless a small cushion. However, frustration was uppermost in the Bremen camp after the 2-2 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt. "You can't afford to let go of a game when you lead 2-0," said a disappointed Marvin Ducksch. The striker opened the scoring from the penalty spot and helped set up the second scored by Rafael Borré. "But then we stopped playing to a certain extent," declared Leonardo Bittencourt. Eintracht earned a point with goals from Skhiri and Smolcic. The six time winners of the DFB-Pokal surprisingly went out in the first round this term with a 3-2 defeat against FC Viktoria Köln.

Personnel

Werder Bremen have started with the same line-up three times in succession. Ahead of goalkeeper Michael Zetterer, who replaced the injured number one Jiri Pavlenka after matchday eight, is a back three consisting of Anthony Jung, the captain Marco Friedl and Milos Veljkovic. The Green and Whites have had two central defenders out injured in recent weeks. In a friendly against second division Hansa Rostock (1-2) during the international break, Amos Pieper made his comeback after muscular problems as did his central defensive team-mate Niklas Stark who had also also been sidelined for weeks with muscular problems. Both are options for the starting XI against Bayer 04. And goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka returned in goal for the friendly against Rostock for his first appearance since recovering from a groin injury. Ole Werner did not say whether he would start against the Werkself instead of Michael Zetterer. There is also a question mark over midfielder Naby Keita, signed from Liverpool in the summer, after he picked up a muscle injury on Saturday.

The wing-backs in the last three league games have been Olivier Deman on the left and the former Bayer 04 player Mitchell Weiser on the right. Jens Stage plays a holding midfield role with Leonardo Bittencourt and Romano Schmidt further up the pitch. Marvin Ducksch and Raphael Borré have recently worked brilliantly together up front, scoring five of the last six Werder Bremen goals. Bremen appear to have made good the departure of Bundesliga top goalscorer Niklas Füllkrug to Borussia Dortmund at the start of the season. Definitely ruled out for Saturday are striker Leon Opitz, who suffered an ankle injury in the game against Rostock, plus midfielder Nicolai Rapp (foot injury).

Performers

Werder Bremen are a physical team. "The intensity is very high in training as well," said the Dane Jens Stage, who has started in holding midfield in ten out of eleven games this season. "Everybody gives 100%. We've done very well in recent games." Marvin Ducksch has been on top form in recent weeks. The new Germany international, who made his debut in the 3-2 defeat against Turkey, has scored five goals and provided five assists for Werder so far. That puts him top of goal involvements for Bremen. Ducksch recently scored in three Bundesliga games on the bounce the first time. He has found the back of the net 14 times in 2023. Only the Stuttgart player Serhou Guirassy (22) and Harry Kane (17, Bayern Munich) have an even better record.

The Werkself will have to look out for high balls: Werder have already scored six times with headers and only Bayern Munich and Union Berlin (eight each) have been more successful in this area. Three goals scored from counter-attacks demonstrates Bremen's danger in transition. Only Bayer 04 (4) and FC Bayern (5) can beat that number.

Problems

Werder Bremen had problems in defence in the opening phase of the season, allowing too many shots from the opponents and they conceded 20 goals in the first eight games. "We had problems and gave away too many chances," said Jens Stage. The team make a more stable impression now, looking more secure and have only conceded five goals in the last four league fixtures. Resounding success has only been absent on the road. Werder Bremen have not won away this season. The only point picked up came on matchday 10 with a 2-2 draw at VfL Wolfsburg.

Prediction

The trend is definitely on the up in terms of points collected. And Ole Werner now almost has a full squad to choose from again. "It's good that we have everybody together again and a battle for places to maximise performance," said Anthony Jung. In addition to central defender Stark and Pieper, full-back Felix Agu, stalwart Christian Groß and the much vaunted arrival in Bremen Naby Keita are options again for the remaining five league games in this calendar year. The match against Bayer 04 is followed by an away trip to VfB Stuttgart and games at home to FC Augsburg, away to Borussia Mönchengladbach and at home to RB Leipzig. Werder Bremen are looking to have established a comfortable gap to the relegation spots by the end of the year. Staying up remains the top target for Werder. And the team, now not involved in any other competitions, can concentrate on that target at almost full strength.

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