Bremen - FC Schalke 04 have received a welcome boost ahead of their trip to SV Werder Bremen on Saturday (kick-off 13:30 GMT/15:30 CEST) with and both returning to the squad.
Keeping up the momentum
Boateng, one of the , returns from a one-game ban while Papadopoulos has shaken off a thigh injury and can take his place at the heart of Jens Keller's defence for a game they are looking to win to edge closer to a place in the UEFA Champions League next season.
"We're on a bit of a run," said Keller, whose side are unbeaten in their last five Bundesliga fixtures, from which they have taken 13 points, conceding just twice. "We want to extend that in Bremen, then we can play without any pressure. It's important that we carry on picking up points and if we succeed in that, then we'll qualify for the Champions League again." That is the Gelsenkirchen club's priority, and with just six games of the season remaining, winning half of those will probably see them through.
The return of Boateng may mean Keller gives Max Meyer a much-needed rest. "Max has got lots of games in his legs and has been a bit tired of late," said the Schalke supremo. "Let's not forget he's only 18 and runs an incredible amount when he's on the field."
is likely to keep his place in the side after scoring one and making the other in the Royal Blues’ 2-0 win over Hertha Berlin on Matchday 28, but with several first-team members still on the sidelines, including captain Benedikt Höwedes, Jefferson Farfan, Felipe Santana and Atsuto Uchida, Keller cannot afford to rotate his line-up too much.
Still, history is on the guests’ side in this fixture, with Schalke winning three and drawing two of their five most recent visits. Given that second place in the standings is still up for grabs, Keller’s men will not be lacking in motivation, especially as finishing as runners-up would simultaneously allow them to leapfrog neighbours and perennial rivals Borussia Dortmund in the table.
Bremen can also welcome back a key player of their own in as they look to pull clear of the drop zone once and for all. The Green-Whites are only eight points above 17th-placed VfB Stuttgart and Hunt, who announced he will be leaving Bremen in the summer, is vital to their cause. "We're really going to miss Aaron next year,” said head coach Robin Dutt. “But I get the feeling his departure is not affecting him in the slightest. He actually seems to be giving it one last push and I was very happy with the way he played in Hannover."
A repeat of the fighting spirit shown in that come-from-behind 2-1 triumph would be more than welcome for the Weser-Stadion faithful, who have only witnessed their side win four times at home all season, scoring a league-low 15 goals along the way. Of more concern against a Schalke line-up boasting the unforgiving talents of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Julian Draxler et al is Bremen’s leaky backline, with the team conceding an average of two per game on their own patch so far this term.
Bremen: Wolf - Fritz, Prödl, Caldirola, Garcia - Bargfrede - Junuzovic, Obraniak - Hunt - di Santo, Elia
Schalke: Fährmann - Hoogland, Papadopoulos, Matip, Kolasinac - Goretzka, Neustädter - Obasi, Boateng, Draxler - Huntelaar
Schalke's former forward Raul used to relish playing against Werder Bremen. Check out this video on the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel to see why.