Goal.com previews a northern derby between two of Germany's underachieving sides, which also sees a true Bundesliga superstar reacquainted with some old friends.
Saturday's showdown between Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen has been hyped as a tantalizing clash between illustrious rivals, but the match will be extra special for Diego, who for the first time in his career will play against his former employers Bremen. Ahead of the match, the Wolfsburg playmaker revealed his belief that he has not taken a step back in his career since leaving the Hanseaten, and has vowed to give everything to his team's cause.
"I have great respect for Bremen, the club is always in my heart. But I am also very happy with VfL, even though we are going through a difficult phase," he said. "The move to Wolfsburg for me was not a step back and I would make the same decision again. I will fight to change our situation and now only the Bremen game counts." he told Wolfsburg's official website.
"There are no problems between the players but we now have to show the outside world that we are a team and that everyone is rowing in the same direction."
The 25-year old played 84 Bundesliga matches for Bremen between 2006 and 2009, contributing 38 goals and a further 28 assists in what has undoubtedly been the finest period of his career to date.
After a bright start to his second spell in German football, which seemingly had sowed the seeds for another magic triangle at the tip of Wolfsburg's attack, the former Porto man's form has tailed off and although he has scored three goals and assisted four more, he has only two assists from his last five appearances. An encounter against his old side may just be the tonic he needs to act as die Woelfe's catalyst as they seek to maintain their hopes of European football next season. Given the deals done by Dieter Hoeness in the summer, that must be the minimum objective or Steve McClaren could soon find himself suffering the same fate as Armin Veh.
Taking It One Step At A Time
In the aftermath of last week's convincing 3-0 victory over St Pauli, which came courtesy of supposed Real Madrid target Hugo Almeida who scored a hat-trick before subsequently being red-carded, Thomas Schaaf refused to get carried away. Whether a defeat of the Bundesliga's most out-of-form side by its second most out-of-form team will prove to be the turning point ora false dawn on the banks of the Weser remains to be seen. Schaaf said that Bremen made some small steps forward and that that will be the basis of their improvement. The 49-year old is an intelligent man who speaks excellent English and it is perhaps not a co-incidence that he evoked the famous "petits pas" concept once espoused by that great European Robert Schuman. It has been a trying time for Schaaf this season with more questions being asked of his ability than at any other time during his tenure and he understandably wants to keep looking forward.
"We don't want to look back too much but instead we need to focus on the small steps we have made and the things we are now doing better," he told the club's official website.
"We are complementing each our better and we are looking to refine certain things, to find our rhythm and positions on the pitch ; through that we will become better.
Schaaf also took time to acknowledge that tomorrow's opponents are also performing well below expectations but he refused to be complacent, pointing out that when they get it right, they can be a real threat.
"They are also not firing on all cylinders, how they perhaps really should be. But it is not only Diego in their team who possesses a lot of quality, there are a few more besides. If they can rediscover their best form, they are capable of some excellent football."
The biggest blow for Steve McClaren is undoubtedly the absence of the prolific Brazilian Grafite who is still suffering from a muscle problem, which forced him off in Koeln last week. Fabian Johnson and Arne Friedrich are the other casualties. As for the formation, should Mandzukic get the nod upfront then it will be a midfield diamond and two strikers but a switch to 4-2-3-1 is on the cards should Ashkan Dejagah play instead.
Probable Starting X1: Benaglio - Pekarik, Kjaer, Barzagli, Schaefer - Josue - Riether, Cigerci - Diego - Dzeko, Mandzukic
It is a question of who is fit for Thomas Schaaf who is still some way off being able to name his first-choice eleven. Die Gruen-Weissen are without Mikael Silvestre, Hugo Almeida, Wesley, Claudio Pizarro, Sebastian Boenisch, Tim Borowski, Naldo and Christian Vander. Petri Pasanen may be fortunate to hold onto his place as he is under pressure from youngster Dominik Schmidt, who impressed in Koeln last week.
Probable Starting X1: Wiese - Fritz, Mertesacker, Proedl, Pasanen - Bargfrede, Frings - Hunt, Jensen, Marin - Arnautovic
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