The Hinrunde just got was SV Werder Bremen’s worst of all time. After a shaky start to the new year, all of Bremen’s experience full-backs are out for the game in Augsburg. We’ve taken a look at Werder before the game on Saturday (15:30 CET).
For football fans in Germany, the Bundesliga without Werder Bremen is almost unthinkable. Ever since the league’s founding in 1963, the Green-and-Whites have almost always played in the top tier of German football, a tradition that was only interrupted by relegation to the 2 Liga in 1980, before winning direct promotion in the following season. Now, what would be the club’s second relegation in their storied history is a distinct possibility.
The club from the hanseatic city suffered their worst ever Hinrunde, ending 2019 on just 14 points. This torrid first half of the season was virtually unpredictable before the season started, especially after Florian Kohfeldt’s side narrowly missed out on Europa League qualification in 2018/19. This time out, it looks like their relegation battle will go down to the wire. The atmosphere looked to have been lifted as Werder beat relegation rivals Fortuna Düsseldorf 1-0 in their Rückrunde curtain-raiser, but a hefty defeat swiftly followed against Hoffenheim (3-0).
Kohfeldt’s defensive woes: 44 goals conceded and no full-backs
After five defeats in their last six matches, Bremen are in the relegation playoff spot. There is a lifeline, however, as they are currently just one point behind Mainz, who are in 15th. One reason for their precarious position is their leaky defence. Werder have already conceded 44 goals this season, a joint-worst record shared with 1. FSV Mainz 05. This is why Werder’s sporting director Frank Baumann sanctioned a January loan deal for Hoffenheim’s Kevin Vogt. The former Augsburger will stay on the Weser until the end of the season.
On Saturday, Vogt will line up as part of a back three built around captain Niklas Moisander, who returns this week after serving a suspension. However, who lines up on either side of the back three will be causing a headache for Kohfeldt. Theodor Gebre Selassie (thigh), Michael Lang, Ludwig Augustinsson (both muscle strain) and Marco Friedl (suspension) are all unavailable, leaving the issue of full-backs wide open.
Kohfeldt: “prepared for setbacks”
As if Kohfeldt didn’t have enough on his plate, the next set of issues may be cropping up. But despite the tricky on-field situation, the 37-year-old is remaining calm and confident. “Before Christmas, it felt like we were in a free fall. Not anymore,” said Werder’s head coach. “Over the winter break, we prepared ourselves for the fact that we may suffer setbacks, and also how we deal with them. It’s important that we keep this in mind.”
The statictics may give Bremen cause to be confident. Twelve of their 17 points this season have come on the road, and Werder have come out on top in the last four fixtures between FCA and the club from the Free City. Kohfeldt himself hasn’t suffered defeat against Augsburg in four games. “You told me that before Schalke too, it doesn’t interest me,” he responded to a journalist in his pre-match press conference. Against the Royal Blues in November, Kohfeldt had to accept his first defeat after three wins in a row, a trend he’ll hope to be avoiding in Augsburg this weekend.