Bremen - The return of the Bundesliga after a four-week hiatus will have football fans across the continent eager in anticipation for the weekend to arrive, and quite possibly the most exciting game of all is at the Weserstadion, where Werder Bremen host champions Borussia Dortmund.
These two sides contested the league's opening fixture this season and produced a hugely exciting spectacle that set the tone for the rest of the campaign. Entertainment may not be the motivating factor for two sides in need of points, but though they may not intend it, drama usually unfolds when the two sides meet.
August’s clash, in which the Yellow Blacks prevailed 2-1, was one of the most exciting beginnings to a Bundesliga campaign in recent memory. Marco Reus scored his first league goal for his hometown club, while Mario Götze also shone, coming off the bench to score the winner. Nevertheless, a new-look Bremen side gave an admirable account of themselves, with debutants Kevin de Bruyne and Theodor Gebre Selassie particularly impressive.
For both teams, the result was symptomatic of their respective campaigns thereafter. Dortmund haven’t quite found the consistency they had last season, suffering costly defeats in Hamburg and at home to rivals FC Schalke 04 and falling 12 points behind leaders FC Bayern Munich. And Bremen, with one of the most inexperienced squads that long-serving coach Thomas Schaaf has ever had, have gone on to lose similarly tight matches such as at Hannover and Schalke.
Consistency has been the biggest problem for Werder this season. They haven’t managed back-to-back league victories since November 2011 and have kept just two clean sheets this term. Nevertheless, in his pre-match press conference Schaaf took the opportunity to refer back to their opening game heroics. “We gave an interesting performance and caused them one or two problems”, recalls the 51-year-old. “We have to manage that again this time, and hopefully get a better result.”
His players will, however, need to get on top of Dortmund early, a difficult task itself in view of Dortmund’s pressing game but made even more testing by the psychological boostdie Schwarzgelben will have received following the return of prodigal son Nuri Sahin to Signal Iduna Park last week. Sahin won four of the six games he played against Bremen in his first spell in Dortmund and will be itching to make an impression on head coach Jürgen Klopp. Bremen have been warned.
Statistically speaking this is a neutral's dream. In 44 Bundesliga encounters there has never been a goalless draw in this fixture and a healthy average of 3.1 goals have been scored. Bremen have also recorded more Bundesliga wins over Dortmund (30) than against any other club, losing just seven of 44 games.
Admittedly, five of those losses have come in the last seven games, but with a new year comes new promise, and Schaaf’s men might just fancy their chances in this one.