19 March 2004
HAMBURG – Frontrunners Werder Bremen travel to VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday for the first of two straight Bundesliga away matches which could determine whether they can fulfil their dream of a domestic double.
Bremen are unbeaten in 15 league matches and enjoy a nine-point lead at the top from defending champions Bayern Munich, who visit relegation-threatened Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
Werder were far from spectacular on Tuesday, but came back from behind twice to beat second division Luebeck 3-2 for a place in the May 29 cup final against another division 2 team, Alemania Aachen.
The northern Germans have won the cup four times and the Bundesliga on three occasions, but are yet to achieve a double.
The midweek cup win should boost the morale of Ailton and company ahead of their two road trips in the league to Wolfsburg and Stuttgart, the latter being the last team to beat Bremen in the league six months ago on 18 October.
“It almost doesn’t matter whether we play at home or away. We always play to win,” said midfielder Paul Stalteri.
But even if things go wrong, Bremen are not really worried.
“We will lose again at some stage, but we will get over it,” said defender Mladen Krstajic.
Bremen have lost the last two games in Wolfsburg, but the hosts are playing an indifferent season in mid-table, far away from the UEFA Cup berth they had originally sought.
“It is a mental thing. We seem paralysed. We must turn the trend against Bremen,” said coach Juergen Roeber.
Bayern Munich’s title ambitions were severely dented in last week’s meagre 3-3 home draw against Hansa Rostock, which re-opened the discussion on the defensive skills of playmaker Michael Ballack.
But club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge spoke of a “non-issue” and said that Ballack had also played in defensive rather than offensive midfield during his heydays at Bayer Leverkusen.
Hertha manager Dieter Hoeness, the brother of Munich manager Uli Hoeness, tried to play down the importance of the game although Hertha need every point in their fight against relegation.
“This is not the match we have to win, but we are capable of winning it,” said Hoeness, whose team misses key defenders Arne Friedrich and Dick van Burik on suspension.
Even worse off than Hertha are bottom club Cologne, who are eight points away from a non-relegation place ahead of their meeting with Stuttgart.
The visitors have regrouped from a slump with two straight wins, with coach Felix Magath not even ruling out a comeback in the title race despite a current 12-point deficit on Bremen.
“We travel to the bottom club and then have Bremen at home. Lets see what the situation is after those two games,” said Magath.
The other weekend games are Schalke 04 vs Hanover 96, Borussia Dortmund vs Eintracht Frankfurt, Hansa Rostock vs Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Moenchengladbach vs SV Hamburg, Kaiserslautern vs VfL Bochum (Saturday) and 1860 Munich vs SC Freiburg (Sunday).
Subject: German News