This weekend, the Bundesliga sees a battle at the very bottom of the league table take place, as 18th place Paderborn host 17th place Werder Bremen at the Benteler-Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Paderborn have had an interesting run of results since the league restart almost a month ago. They’ve only lost once, getting smashed 6-1 by Borussia Dortmund, but they have also not won a single game, drawing the other four. They did manage to snatch a point away to RB Leipzig to keep their survival hopes alive, but nothing less than a win will do this time around.
Bremen looked impressive at one point, picking up seven points in a three game span, but they’ve faltered once again, losing their last two. This contest will be the Green-Whites’ last chance to stay up, as dropping more points will all but seal relegation for the club.
Paderborn will be without two key players from the Leipzig draw, as Uwe Hunemeier and Streli Mamba have been suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
Luca Kilian might miss out due to an issue with his thigh, and it’s a similar story for Sebastian Schonlau, who is still dealing with an achilles tendon injury, but the midfielder might be able to come on as a substitute.
There’s good and bad news for Bremen on the injury front. They could finally be regaining some firepower up top, as striker Niclas Fullkrug has returned from an ACL injury that took him out of action for around eight months, and could feature at the weekend. The iconic Claudio Pizzaro could also make his comeback against Paderborn, but his status is less clear.
The bad news is that the dynamic duo of Milot Rashica and Leonardo Bittencourt are both doubtful for the contest. They’ve each been dealing with nagging injuries, and it’s unknown if either will be ready to go come Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the trio of Kevin Mohwald, Omer Toprak, and Nuri Sahin are all still out for the foreseeable future.
Paderborn: Zingerle, Jans, Strohdiek, Rumpf, Collins, Gjasula, Proger, Vasiliadis, Srbeny, Antwi-Adjej, Michel
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Selassie, Veljkovic, Moisander, Augustinsson, Eggestein, Vogt, Klaassen, Bartels, Sargent, Bittencourt
Ones to watch
This season has clearly been a tough one for Paderborn, but they’ve still had a few players impress and catch the eyes of bigger clubs across Europe.
The best example of this might just be Vasiliadis, who has become an integral part of the team. A mainstay of the midfield, the Greek international is still only 22 years old, and still has plenty of room to improve.
Vasiliadis has only got one assist on the campaign, but his impact on the field goes beyond the score sheet. He’s mostly been forced to drop back and help the defense due to Paderborns struggles at the back, so he’s become much better on that side of the ball.
He still helps out going forward, of course. Incredibly energetic, it seems Vasiliadis is always involved in the game no matter what’s going on. The youngster likes being on the ball, and is either linking up possession or taking shots from distance.
He’ll have more chances to shine this season, and there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll put in another solid performance on Saturday. Even if Paderborn do ultimately go down at the end of the year, it’s very likely Vasiliadis will get an offseason move somewhere else that keeps him in the Bundesliga, which is where he belongs.
Bremen desperately need goals, especially with the aforementioned injuries to Bittencourt and Rashica. Someone has to step up to the challenge, and the pressure will be on Sargent to lead the line and find the back of the net.
The Green-Whites don’t really have anyone else to turn to. Pizarro and Fullkrug are still hurt, and Davie Selke has been absolutely dreadful since the league restarted, and simply cannot be trusted on the field anymore.
Sargent is Bremen’s last hope up top. He’s had a decent campaign so far, grabbing three goals and providing two assists, but he needs to do more if the team wants to avoid the drop.
It’s not all his fault, as the American does not get enough service. Sargent is a tireless worker, pressing defenders whenever they get on the ball and constantly making runs in behind to open up space for teammates. When he does get into a good position, however, he never ends up getting the ball.
Hard work pays off eventually, and Sargent will look to get back on the scoresheet against a leaky Paderborn defense. Pressure makes diamonds, and if the 20 year old can get the job done when he’s needed most, he might be on the way to becoming a Bremen cult hero.
One of Paderborns four wins this season came against Bremen, as they managed to sneak a 1-0 win at the Weserstadion in early December.
The Green-Whites should have taken the lead in the contest, though, as a shot from Bittencourt was saved, with the rebound falling right to Davy Klaassen only a few yards out from goal. However, he couldn’t react quick enough to the loose ball, and ended up hitting a tame shot right back at the keeper.
Bremen then needed Jiri Pavlenka to bail them out at the back, as the keeper made a brilliant save to stop a long distance rocket from Vasiliadis.
It was a scrappy and tense affair, which is exactly what you would have expected from two teams at the bottom of the league table. Just as it seemed the sides were set to share the points, Paderborn snatched a late winner in the final minutes.
A shot from distance deflected off Mamba and fell right to the feet of Sven Michel, who passed the ball into the back of an empty net. The linesman flag initially went up for offside, but after a dramatic VAR check, the referee realized that Mamba had actually stayed onside, so the goal was rightly given.
The loss was massive for Bremen, and it might just be the result that ultimately costs them Bundesliga survival.
Where to watch
Fans in the UK will be able to watch the contest on BT Sport 3, while those in the United States can see the game on Fox Soccer Match Pass.