Goal.com looks ahead to the clash between Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen, two sides in the Bundesliga's top four last season.
Leverkusen have enjoyed another bright start to this season and once more find themselves in the upper echelons of the table. After six games, they have eleven points and barring the aberration that was the 6-3 home defeat to Gladbach, die Werkself have looked impressive for the most part. They have impressive away wins in Dortmund and Stuttgart under their belts, scoring a combined six goals.
Nevertheless, although the home side will be considered slight favorites at the recently upgraded Bay Arena, coach Jupp Heynckes is not allowing complacency to creep in despite his satisfaction at how the team are progressing. He is also wary of the continental hangover effect.
"On Friday after the game in Simferopol (before matchday two) we trained normally and then we lost against Borussia Moenchengladbach. Now we will try something different," Heynckes told the pre-game press conference.
"In eleven competitive games, we have only lost once. Werder should not be judged however by the 4-0 defeat to Inter but rather by their 3-2 victory over Hamburg."
Interestingly, in the last six meetings between the two sides, Leverkusen have only won once, back in 2004/05 when they triumphed 2-1. They have also failed to score in three of the last four games at home, a statistic they will be looking to put right on Sunday afternoon.
Another Classic Bremen Rollercoaster Ride
It's never an easy ride as a Werder Bremen supporter but they would not have it any other way. On a high after their superb 3-2 win over Hamburg, they came crashing down to earth in a 4-0 drubbing in the San Siro against Champions League holders Inter. Thomas Schaaf's side may be without a number of stellar performers such as Clemens Fritz, Naldo, Torsten Frings and Claudio Pizarro, but with just seven points from six games, now is not the time for Werder to feel sorry for themselves.
That derby win over Hamburg was in many ways a microcosm of Bremen as a team. They went a goal up against the run of play and then settled into the game, doubling their lead. However, Hamburg battled back to level things up before Werder won the game in the last five minutes with a Hugo Almeida strike from close range. It was a thrilling topsy-turvy encounter but Bremen came out on top in the end. Nevertheless, Thomas Schaaf has a real job on his hands to improve the team's morale after their midweek hammering.
"It's important not to become too emotional and pick on individual players. We have to let the facts speak for themselves and give the necessary instructions to the players for them to improve. The entire team did not show what was required to play in the Champions League in Milan. We all have to bear responsibility," Schaaf told the club's official website.
As mentioned above, Bremen have a good record in Leverkusen, having not been beaten since 2004-05 and furthermore, Thomas Schaaf has never lost a game to Jupp Heynckes. Schaaf is relishing the encounter against one of the Bundesliga's leading lights.
"I am glad that we have the opportunity to prove our worth once again against such a good opponent, especially coming so quickly after a game like we had against Inter."
Jupp Heynckes is definitely without injured trio Gonzalo Castro, Michael Ballack and Stefan Kiessling. Renato Augusto missed the Europa League clash with Atletico Madrid with a knee injury and will not make Sunday's game. Sidney Sam will therefore line up on the right-hand side of midfield. There is a tussle between Hanno Balitsch and Lars Bender for the final central midfield slot with the versatile Balitsch favourite. Finally, Patrick Helmes will play upfront instead of Eren Derdiyok.
Probable Starting XI: Adler - Schwaab, Friedrich, Hyypia, Kadlec - Reinartz - Sam, Vidal, Balitsch, Barnetta - Helmes
The injuries have been piling up for Thomas Schaaf, which will test the squad's depth to the fullest. Die Gruen-Weissen are without Christian Vander, Sebastian Boenisch, Clemens Fritz, Naldo and most crucially of all, Torsten Frings and Claudio Pizarro. Changes are almost certain from the defeat to Inter with Petri Pasanen and Aaron Hunt set to come in for Daniel Jensen and Tim Borowski.
Probable Starting XI: Wiese - Pasanen, Mertesacker, Proedl, Silvestre - Bargfrede, Wesley - Arnautovic, Hunt, Marin - Hugo Almeida
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