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Bremen face delicate trip to Schalke

19 February 2004

HAMBURG – Bundesliga leaders Werder Bremen visit Schalke 04 on the weekend, a match which appears easy on paper if there wasn’t a delicate dimension to it.

Last autumn, Schalke managed to convince Bremen’s league top scorer Ailton and defender Mladen Krstajic to switch sides after the current season for a reportedly vastly improved salary.

Bremen were furious, but the dust has settled by now.

“It won’t be a normal match. But as far as we are concerned the issue is over. Everyone is stressing the conflict between Schalke and us. But that is of no interest whatsoever for us,” said Bremen sports director Klaus Allofs.

Transfers from Bremen to Schalke have occurred with a frequency that should defuse the last one, including in past years the transfers of goalkeepers Oliver Reck and Frank Rost as well as coach Frank Neubarth.

Ailton, who has scored 19 goals in 20 games, insisted that he will not have a loyalty problem on Saturday.

“I am old enough not to let myself get distracted. Neither by the fans nor the media,” said Ailton.

Bremen come to Schalke with an unbeaten run of 11 games and all the luck on their side as well as they won their last two games in Moenchengladbach and against Kaiserslautern in injury time.

They enjoy a nine-point lead over champions Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart as nothing seems to stop them en route to their fourth Bundesliga title.

Bremen have the league’s best away record with seven victories, one draw and one defeat.

Schalke, by contrast, are one of the league’s worst home teams with just three wins in the AuFSchalke arena, to go with five draws and two defeats.

“All that matters for us is to finally win a game at home again,” said Rost, adding that he is well aware how Ailton may feel in his future home stadium.

“I was in the same situation. You are very motivated, possible over-motivated. Maybe he won’t have a top performance,” said Rost.

Munich will be hoping for a Bremen slip, but at the same time must rebound from a 1-0 loss in Bochum against SV Hamburg if they want to keep their small title chances alive.

The omens are good, though, as Hamburg has only won three times in Munich, the last dating back to 1982.

Stuttgart, meanwhile, must also finally get their act together in the form of a victory at drop zone side Kaiserslautern if they want to stay in contention. The southern Germans led the league for several weeks but have now just won one of their last seven games.

The other weekend games are Hansa Rostock vs. Hanover 96, Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. SC Freiburg, VfL Wolfsburg vs. 1860 Munich, bayer Leverkusen vs. Bochum (Saturday), Hertha Berlin vs. Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund vs. Cologne (Sunday).


Subject: German news