Munich - For VfL Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs and central defender Naldo, it will be a return to pastures none-too-old when they step out at the Weserstadion on Saturday. But while there will be flowers before kick-off for the Brazilian set-piece specialist, that is as far as hosts Werder Bremen plan to take it with the gift-giving.
Posiive reaction from fans
left Bremen last summer without really being given a proper send-off, something which will be made up for prior to what will be his 200th Bundesliga appearance in Saturday afternoon's late game.
“I expect the fans to react positively towards me,” said the Brazilian on his club’s website. “At the same time, it’s going to be strange for me to be stood on the opposite side. My focus is on Wolfsburg now, though, and I'll be giving it my all over the 90 minutes for my team.” Naldo played seven years for Bremen and expects to see plenty of familiar faces among the crowd. “They will be keeping their fingers crossed for me and it would be nice if we could celebrate a win,” he said.
Allofs, meanwhile, is also back after his 13-year stint as sporting director, one half of an enduring working relationship with coach Thomas Schaaf. That came to an end last November, and while he will also be accorded a warm welcome, Schaaf's overriding concern is to get his on stumbling team back on track. “We’ve got to ensure we’re successful again,” he noted, “The team are ready and willing and I expect an interesting and intense game.”
Nobody is safe yet
“Exciting” is the word Allofs used to describe an encounter which, beyond his own emotional ties, is going to be a rather poignant occasion for everybody involved. “Of course I still have a lot of memories,” he said. “I’ll see a lot more familiar faces than at any other away game and I expect it to be exciting, not least because it’s a northern derby, but also because our opponents are in a similar situation to us. Neither we nor Bremen are safe yet.”
Allofs and Naldo will not be the only familiar guest faces on show, however, with midfielder Diego also returning to his former haunting ground. The Brazilian playmaker celebrated DFB Cup glory with Bremen before a spell with Juventus, and days after the Wolves’ in Munich, he could be the key to helping them bounce back in the Bundesliga.
“Diego’s the man for the special moments in a game,” said coach Dieter Hecking. “I’ve only been working with him for a short time, but I’ve realised already that he cares a lot about this team.” He will also care that they come away with three points to remain above their opponents, and clear of the relegation zone. “It’s going to be anything but a walk in the park, though,” warned Hecking. “It’s certainly going to be an exciting Nordderby.”
Bremen: Mielitz - Gebre Selassie, Prödl, Lukimya, Schmitz - Fritz, Bargfrede - Arnautovic, Junuzovic, Hunt, de Bruyne
Wolfsburg: Benaglio - Fagner, Naldo, Madlung, Rodriguez - Medojevic, Polak - Hasebe, Diego, Vieirinha - Olic