It has all come down to this. The Bundesliga season comes to a close on Saturday afternoon, and there’s a lot left to play for.
That’s especially true at the bottom of the league table, as Werder Bremen hosts FC Koln at the Wohinvest Weserstadion in a game that could decide who stays up and who goes down.
The Green-Whites go into the contest in 17th place, two points behind Fortuna Dusseldorf in the race for the relegation-playoff spot. That leaves Bremen with two potential ways to jump ahead of their relegation rivals.
If they win and Dusseldorf lose to Union Berlin, Bremen end the campaign in 16th. If Dusseldorf happens to draw their game, then the Green-Whites will need to win by four goals to qualify for the aforementioned playoff. If they fail to win, then they’ll be relegated no matter what happens in the other contest.
There’s no such pressure on Koln, as they’ve already secured their Bundesliga safety, and can finish the day anywhere between 11th and 15th place depending on how results go.
Bremen have had injury problems the entire season, and things haven’t improved. Theodor Gebre Selassie hurt his ankle in the loss against Mainz last week, and might not feature in the upcoming matchup.
Then there’s Milot Rashica and Kevin Vogt, as both key players are also listed as doubtful for the contest.
The likes of Sebastian Langkamp, Kevin Mohwald, and Nuri Sahin are all out as well, while Omer Toprak has only recently returned to training, and might not be match fit in time.
For Koln, they’ll be without midfielder Florian Kainz, who is suspended for the match due to yellow card accumulation. Club captain Jonas Hector could also miss out, as the German international hasn’t fully recovered from a recent groin injury.
Simon Terodde is also unavailable for selection with a knee injury, while Thomas Kessler and Jhon Cordoba are doubtful for Saturday’s match.
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Friedl, Veljkovic, Moisander, Augustinsson, Eggestein, Bargfrede, Klaassen, Bittencourt, Fullkrug, Osako
Koln: Horn, Bornauw, Czichos, Leistner, Ehizibue, Skhiri, Rexhbecaj, Jakobs, Uth, Hoger, Modeste
Ones to watch
Bremen barely have any real attacking threats, and with Rashica likely out, the onus will all be on Leonardo Bittencourt to create going forward.
On loan from Hoffenheim, Bittencourt has been key for Bremen this season, especially after the Bundesliga restart. He scored the winning goal against Freiburg and Schalke, with those points being a big reason why the Green-Whites have any chance of staying up at the moment.
The German then got hurt, and the team suffered greatly in his absence. They were toothless going forward, especially on the wing. That spell showed supporters just how crucial Bittencourt is for Bremen, and having him back and fully fit once again is huge.
Bittencourt’s unpredictability is why he’s so dangerous. He’s capable of doing great things on either foot, able to pass and shoot with his right or left foot with similar results. That allows him to both cut inside and go out wide whenever need be, making him a nightmare for opposing defenders.
Bremen need a hero, and if anyone’s likely to step up when needed most, it’s Bittencourt.
With the aforementioned Cordoba potentially unavailable for selection, expect Koln to turn to the incredibly experienced Anthony Modeste.
The French forward hasn’t had the best season, but he’s still scored four goals in a diminished role for the side. A star of the past, the now 32 year old Modeste has become a solid option off the bench, and is still someone who can lead the line from the start whenever called upon.
With Cordoba likely out, Modeste will probably be trusted to lead the line against Bremen. The Frenchman still has a lot to offer, of course. An incredibly dangerous aerial threat, Modeste could feast upon an often shaky Bremen backline. He’s also got that trademark strength, able to hold onto the ball and open up space for his teammates as a result.
It’s unclear how many seasons Modeste has left, but he’ll likely have the chance to end this campaign with another goal on Saturday afternoon.
Koln were able to grab all three points the last time these two sides faced off, as they beat Bremen 1-0 at the RheinEnergieStadion.
Far from the most exciting game, the lone goal of the afternoon came in the 39th minute. A long ball from centerback Rafael Czichos picked out the run of Dominick Drexler in the box. He hit a first time pass across the penalty area to Cordoba, who was able to easily pass the ball into the back of an empty net to give Koln the advantage.
Bremen came close to equalizing soon after the halftime break, as a thunderous shot from Rashica smashed off the crossbar. The Green-Whites thought they had tied things up when Yuya Osako found the back of the net following a poorly defended corner, but the sideline officials flag quickly went up for offside, correctly taking the goal off the board.
Koln goalkeeper Timo Horn would be the hero in the final few minutes, as he somehow managed to save a perfectly hit volley from Niklas Moisander to keep the clean sheet and secure the victory for the home side.
Where to watch
Fans in the UK will be able to watch the match on BT Sport Extra, while those in the United States can see the game on FOX Soccer Match Pass.