Bremen - Northern derbies have been a regular feature of the Bundesliga this year, with SV Werder Bremen's clash at home to Hannover 96 this Friday (kick-off 20:30 CET) evening the third in the space of seven days.
After the hustle and bustle of the final day of the transfer window, the action returns to the field of play with both teams languishing in the table. Twelfth and tenth respectively, three points, as well as local bragging rights, are of utmost importance.
The form guide doesn’t make for pleasant reading for Bremen, who have lost their first two games of the Rückrunde and conceded eight goals in the process. They will also still be hurting from their last encounter on home soil, a 5-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund, their heaviest home defeat in the Bundesiga since 1987. Their latest taste of derby action, just six days ago, was a costly 3-2 defeat to Hamburger SV.
The corresponding fixture last season produced a comfortable 3-0 win for Werder, but two of the goalscorers that day - Claudio Pizarro and Markus Rosenberg - are no longer at the club. Thomas Schaaf is building a new-look team but, as he tries to re-establish his side as a top-six contender, his task has been made all the tougher by suspensions to last week’s two red-card offenders Clemens Fritz and Marko Arnautovic.
Hannover have had a slightly more positive time of things lately, but the Reds are still yet to hit their potential. Last week they secured a 2-1 win at home to local rivals VfL Wolfsburg, but the victory papered over the cracks of near-total domination by the Wolves, who created 24 chances in all. Ron-Robert Zieler made an impressive return to form, but head coach Mirko Slomka will nevertheless have been concerned at his team’s defensive shortcomings, not to mention the red card shown to debutant Sebastian Pocognoli.
Fortunately for them, they needn’t reckon with facing the dangerous Arnautovic, but Slomka insisted that Werder more than have the quality to replace him: "Thomas Schaaf is a top-class coach and Bremen will still be able to turn defence into attack quickly." Counter-attacking at pace is also something Slomka’s teams are renowned for, so Friday’s showdown could be quite the spectacle.
Bremen: Mielitz - Ignjovski, Lukimya, Sokratis, Schmitz - Junuzovic - Ekici, Hunt, de Bruyne, Elia - Petersen
Hannover: Zieler - Chahed, Djourou, Haggui, Pander - Schmiedebach, da Silva Pinto - Schlaudraff, Huszti - Abdellaoue, M. Diouf