Goal.com looks at the big tie of the weekend in the Bundesliga as struggling Werder Bremen entertain a resurgent Bayern Munich side...Schaaf Looking To Repay The Faith
There is no question about it, Werder are in trouble. The Northwestern club currently languish way down in 14th position, only three points ahead of the relegation play-off place. Last weeks 3-0 defeat to Koeln was embarrassing to say the least, an abject performance devoid of any confidence, courage or quality.
So it is fair to say Thomas Schaaf is on the edge, in every sense of the word. The 49-year-old has been involved with the club since the age of 11 and has never played for or managed any other club. Yet everyone involved with the club, whether it be the supporters, players or board members are surely getting tetchy with the current predicament.
Schaaf has been in charge of die Werderaner since 1999 and has enjoyed great success but this is sure to go down as his worst campaign in charge of Bremen. Could it be a time for a change? Not yet according to the club's managing director Klaus Allofs.
"We will not make a change on the managerial position as we feel there is no use making a change just for the chance to see a psychological effect that could last maybe one or two weeks overall," Allofs told Deutsche Presseagentur.
"This mistake has been made so often by so many clubs in the past. We are not going to commit such a blunder. From my point of view there is definitely no better manager for Werder Bremen than Thomas Schaaf."
Quite the vote of confidence. Schaaf will be hoping to repay the faith shown in him by the Werder board and what better way to do it than to defeat champions Bayern on Sunday.
Bayern Gunning For Top Spot
With the Bundesliga approaching the business end of the season, Bayern look ready for the run-in. A 1-1 draw versus Wolfsburg was a disappointing start to 2011 for Louis van Gaal's men but the champions looked back on track last weekend with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Kaiserslautern. A 4-0 win over Alemannia Aachen midweek in the DFB Pokal will only add to the sense of belief within the camp that they can catch runaway leaders Dortmund.
Victory over rivals Werder Bremen this weekend could potentially see die Roten move into a Champions League qualification place, a rare sight for all Bayern supporters this season. The return of Arjen Robben has certainly lifted the club even if the team did receive another setback when Franck Ribery was ruled out until mid-February when he suffered a knee injury versus Wolfsburg a fortnight ago.
However, the German giants will also be greatful for the return of another player, but strangely enough this player has been fit all season. World Cup Golden Boot winner Thomas Mueller was expected to set the Bundesliga alight after his brilliant debut season and impressive World Cup shenanigans but it seemed he was suffering from second season syndrome in the early stages of this campaign after some lethargic performance.
Yet the 21-year-old has looked in fine form of late and is very much relishing continuing this form versus an out of sorts Werder Bremen. Although the young striker is well aware of the threat Saturday's opposition will possess.
"Bremen have been among the best teams in Germany for many years. You shouldn't make the mistake [of underestimating Bremen] and get blinded by the table. Werder still have an excellent team with many good players," Mueller told werder.de.
Victory over Werder would be a huge result for a side still 13 points behind leaders Dortmund. Yet FC Hollywood are certainly a team who believe their best is yet to come while rivals Dortmund could perhaps be running out of steam. Would you really bet against a Bayern comeback?
Struggling Bremen have a number of injury concerns for the visit of Bayern this weekend. Marko Arnautovic is expected to miss the game after suffering some bruising to his shin and calf in training earlier in the week. Long term absentees Christian Vander, Sebastian Boenisch, Naldo, Daniel Jensen and Wesley all miss out for Schaaf's team but the return of Tim Borowski will be a huge boost, The ex-Bayern midfielder is expected to start the game from the bench. Aaron Hunt is expected to start after recovering from a stomach infection
Probable Starting XI: Wiese - Fritz, Mertesacker, Proedl, Silvestre - Bargfrede, Frings - Kroos, Hunt, Marin - Pizarro
Bayern have no fresh injury concerns after their midweek 4-0 victory over Aachen in the DFB Pokal. However the Bavarian club have been dealt a blow with the news that Franck Ribery will now be out until mid-February with a knee injury. Diego Contento (stress fracture) Toni Kroos (foot) and Ivica Olic (knee) all miss out in a game Bayern will be keen to win.
Probable Starting XI: Kraft - Lahm, Tymoshchuk, Badstuber, Luiz Gustavo - Pranjic, Ottl - Mueller, Schweinsteiger, Mueller - Gomez
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