With nine Bundesliga goals since the turn of the year, hardy Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro is doing everything in his power to keep SV Werder Bremen above water in 2015/16.
Read: Pizarro returns to face former club Bayern
Since league action resumed after the winter break, Werder Bremen have been slowly but surely inching away from the bottom end of the table and no-one is playing a more significant role in the Green-Whites' 2016 revival than Pizarro. His sublime 26th-minute strike to put them 2-0 up in last weekend's relegation six-pointer against Hannover 96 – they eventually ran out 4-1 winners – took the 37-year-old Peruvian sharpshooter up to a league-leading nine for the year.
It also happened to be his 100th Bundesliga goal in a Bremen shirt, leaving him just one shy of Marco Bode's all-time club best-mark. “I'll get that one as well,” Pizarro promptly vowed. On current form, a none-too-risky assertion. Only days before, he netted three for the visitors as they turned Bayer 04 Leverkusen over in their own back yard, that one finishing 4-1 as well. It was a record-breaking evening for the Werder no14, who thus became the oldest player ever to net a hattrick in Germany's national top flight.
The league's all-time top-scoring foreigner, on 187 goals and counting – leaving him fifth on the overall chart – Pizarro's ongoing reliability as an executioner has lent Bremen fresh impetus in their battle against the drop. “He's simply outstanding and I'm only glad he's playing for us,” said midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic. “It's just great what he's producing out on the pitch,” confirmed coach Viktor Skripnik, himself breathing altogether easier on the back of the past couple of results. A home draw with SV Darmstadt 98 – salvaged at the last by that man Pizarro – left Skripnik's charges third-bottom of the table after Matchday 23 with the sides below them, 1899 Hoffenheim and Hannover, both closing in. Two games later, Bremen are six points clear of an automatic relegation place and with mid-table respectability in their sights.
In order to keep the current mini-victory run going, however, they will have to pull something special out the hat this weekend, when they take on FC Bayern at the Allianz Arena. Pizarro moved back to Bremen last summer at the end of his second spell on the books in Munich and his former colleagues know as well as anyone what he is capable of. “Claudio's a great character. It's a pity he left, we could still have used him,” said Arjen Robben ahead of this classic south-north encounter; “When he comes in, he always plays well and gets his goals.” As far as that goes, Bayern's Flying Dutchman added, ”On Saturday, he's only allowed to score during the warm-up.”