The games are coming thick and fast in the Bundesliga, and this week is no different as Tuesday night sees Werder Bremen host Borussia Monchengladbach at the Weserstadion.
They might be on opposite ends of the table, but both teams will be desperate to pick up all three points in an attempt to boost their respective campaigns.
Bremen had their biggest win of the season so far on Saturday afternoon, as the Green-Whites beat SC Freiburg at the Schwarzwald-Stadion.
An even contest early on, Bremen took the lead in the 19th minute. Davy Klaassen played Leonardo Bittencourt through on goal with an exceptional first-time pass in behind the defense, and the winger finished off the move brilliantly, smashing a shot into the bottom corner.
Each side had a number of chances to grab the next goal, but neither couldn’t convert.
The game burst into life in the dying minutes, as the away side found themselves down a man when substitute Philipp Bargfrede was shown a second yellow card for an admittedly stupid tackle.
Frieburg seemed to have instantly capitalized on the mistake, scoring from the resulting free kick after Manuel Gulde poked home from close range. However, he was called offside after a VAR review, so the goal was taken off the board.
Bremen managed to hold on to the clean sheet, securing three crucial points in the process.
Monchengladbach, on the other hand, were beaten on the weekend, losing at home to fellow top four rivals Bayer Leverkusen.
Wonderkid Kai Havertz opened the scoring for Leverkusen, sneaking in behind before slotting his shot between the legs of the opposing keeper. Monchengladbach responded well, to their credit, and equalized shortly after the halftime break when Marcus Thuram volleyed home.
However, a rash challenge from Nico Elvedi in the box gave the ref no other choice than to point to the stop only moments later, and Havertz stepped up to convert the following penalty kick. The away side would put the game to bed with ten minutes to go, as Sven Bender managed to head a free kick from Kerem Demirbay into the back of the net.
The result meant Leverkusen jumped Monchengladbach in the race for the 4th and final Champions League qualifying spot, with one point now separating the sides with seven games to go.
Bremen are still in the midst of an injury crisis, as Niclas Fullkrug, Kevin Mohwald and Claudio Pizarro are all out for the foreseeable future.
Then there’s Kevin Vogt, who had to be subbed off this past weekend after picking up a knock, and is listed as doubtful for this contest. Fellow centerback Omer Toprak, who hasn’t featured in the team since early March, will also likely miss out.
There is some good news at least, as Swedish international Ludwig Augustinsson should make his long awaited return to the lineup.
It’s a similar story for Monchengladbach, as they’ll also be missing a trio of key players, with Breel Donald Embolo, Denis Zakaria, and Tobias Strobl all unavailable for selection.
Fabian Johnson could feature off the bench, but he is still listed as doubtful.
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Gebre Selassie, Veljkovic, Moisander, Augustinsson, Eggestein, Sahin, Klaassen, Bittencourt, Sargent, Rashica
Borussia Monchengladbach: Sommer, Lainer, Ginter, Elvedi, Wendt, Kramer, Neuhaus, Stindl, Herrmann, Plea, Thuram
What to watch for
Will Rashica step up?
The stars of the Bundesliga have put on a show since the league has restarted. The likes of Timo Werner, Robert Lewandowski, and Erling Braut Haaland have all been performing at a high level, showcasing the best the country has to offer.
However, the same cannot be said for Bremen’s star man Milot Rashica. He’s not been bad, to be fair, but he’s not quite been as electric as he used to be.
The Kosovo international is currently lacking that gamechaning ability that we all know he possesses. Everytime he gets the ball, instead of driving forward, he often settles for an easy sideways pass. It’s not actively hurting the team, but Rashica needs to start doing more if Bremen want to win games.
It’s not been all his fault. He’s been playing further back in recent games, forced to help cover defensively in order to help the Bremen backline. Rashica does offer support in that regard, but it makes it harder for him to venture forward when they do get the ball back, while also draining him of energy.
If Bremen want to stay up this season, then they’ll need Rashica to be at his very best. This game against Monchengladbach could be his chance to put on a show of his own, and remind viewers why he’s so highly touted by Europe’s elite.