It has been a disappointing season for Werder Bremen. They stumbled out of the starting blocks, picking up only two victories in the first three months, and the slow start set the tone for the rest of the campaign.
Thomas Schaaf’s men currently sit in 10th place in the Bundesliga, a whopping 10 points behind fifth-placed Stuttgart, and are in serious danger of failing to qualify for Europe.
There are signs of encouragement, though. Two victories in their last three matches on the domestic front, coupled with a 3-2 aggregate victory over St. Etienne in the UEFA Cup, have given their supporters a glimmer of hope that a strong finish is on the horizon.
Schaaf was especially pleased with the emphatic 4-1 victory over Hannover on the weekend and hopes this is a sign of things to come from his team.
“I am happy that the team regained their strength after the 1-1 equaliser and turned around the game,” he said. “They also didn’t give up after the 2-1 lead and just kept going. And their desire to win was clearly evident.”
Werder will now turn their focus to the UEFA Cup, where they have never lost a competitive match to an Italian team on home soil. They have already beaten both Milan-based teams in Europe this season and will look to defeat another Italian outfit when Udinese pay a visit to the Weserstadion on Thursday evening.
Flying The Flag
Udinese are currently languishing in 14th place in the domestic table, courtesy of an ugly 11-match winless streak from November until late January. The Zebrette managed to pick up only three points out of a possible 33 to send them spiralling down the Serie A table.
With nothing left to play for on the domestic front, Udinese will hope to win some silverware in Europe to salvage their disappointing season.
Pasquale Marino’s men are coming off an unlucky defeat to Inter in the Serie A in which the Bianconeri outplayed the defending champions for long stretches of the match, only to see a Mauricio Isla own-goal doom them to defeat.
Despite the loss, Fabio Quagliarella was upbeat about the performance and stated that the squad would be ready for Werder Bremen on Thursday evening.
“We have been drawn against one of the best teams in the competition,” he said. “However, if we play like we did against Inter, who are dominating the Italian league, we can do well. We can certainly put them in difficulty.”
The Zebrette knocked off the defending UEFA Cup holders, Zenit St. Petersburg, in the last round but will be without star striker Antonio Di Natale as they look for a positive result against a Werder side that are a tough nut to crack on home soil.
Players To Watch
Claudio Pizarro (Werder Bremen)
The Peruvian hitman was the hat-trick hero on Sunday as Werder brushed aside Hannover at the Weserstadion. Pizarro has an astonishing 15 goals in 19 appearances this season and will be counted upon to continue that terrific form against Udinese on Thursday evening. If Pizarro heats up, this tie could be over in the first leg.
Fabio Quagliarella (Udinese)
The Italian international will have to shoulder the scoring load with Di Natale on the shelf for the rest of the season. He has managed to hit the back of the net eight times so far this season and will need to add his name to the score-sheet on Thursday if Udinese plan on picking up a positive result in Bremen.
Udinese have failed to win their last three UEFA Cup matches away from home and that trend will continue as Pizarro powers Werder past the visitors.