Two preseason relegation candidates in contrasting form face off on Friday night, as Werder Bremen hosts FC Koln at the Wohninvest Weserstadion.
It’s been a strange few weeks for Bremen, as they have not won any of their last three games, but they haven’t lost any of them either. The Green-Whites come into this contest off the back of three straight 1-1 draws, which weren’t bad results, but they’ll still want to take all three points this time around.
Koln, meanwhile, find themselves in the relegation zone after a dreadful start to the season. They’ve only picked up two points from their opening six games, and were on the losing end once again last weekend when they were beaten by reigning champions Bayern Munich. The good news for the Billy Goats is that all of their matches have been close, so if they can improve soon, then the wins will likely start coming in.
Both sides have been bitten by the injury bug, but neither seem to be in a full blown crisis.
Bremen are still without top scorer Niclas Fullkrug, who won’t be able to return until after the upcoming international break. Fellow striker Davie Selke is a doubt as well, while it’s unclear if Swedish international Ludwig Augustinsson will feature.
The good news is Felix Agu and Patrick Erras seem to be back and available for selection, which gives the Green-Whites plenty of options off the bench.
Koln, meanwhile, have two of their best players on the treatment table, as captain Jonas Hector and former Bremen man Florian Kainz are both still injured.
Anthony Modeste and Benno Schmitz are each listed as questionable, while Robert Voloder has been forced to quarantine.
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Veljkovic, Moisander, Friedl, Gebre Selassie, Eggestein, Gross, Mbom, Bittencourt, Sargent, Rashica
FC Koln: T. Horn, Wolf, Bornauw, Czichos, J.K. Horn, Skhiri, Ozcan, Limnios, Duda, Jakobs, Andersson
Ones to watch
Considering the injuries Bremen are dealing with up top, a lot of pressure will fall on the shoulders of youngster Josh Sargent on Friday night.
The only true striker that’s available for selection at the moment, Sargent will certainly lead the line for the Green-Whites. The team has usually opted for two forwards, but due to circumstances, it’ll just be the American on his own up top.
The good news is he was able to grab his first Bundesliga goal of the campaign last weekend versus Eintracht Frankfurt. It was a well taken one, as Sargent flew into space behind the backline before making no mistake with the finish, slamming a shot towards the near post past a helpless goalkeeper.
Sargent will have to do more than just score, though. As someone who usually drops in deep, he gets on the ball and links up play in midfield. That opens up space as a result, creating chances for his teammates. The American’s workrate is very underrated, as his running off the ball helps the team defensively as well.
It’ll be a new challenge for the 20-year-old, so Bremen will learn a lot about Sargent on Friday.
Another striker under pressure is Sebastian Anderrson, but the focus on him will be for different reasons.
Coming to Koln over the summer for about five million pounds, the Swedish striker has made a solid start to the season. He scored and assisted in the opening game against Hoffenheim, and his goal versus Stuttgart a month later snatched a point for his side.
However, it’s not quite been enough. The Billy Goats only have two points after six games, and now find themselves in the midst of a relegation battle. They need more going forward, and that has to start with Andersson.
Bundesliga fans know just how good he can be, as the former Union Berlin man grabbed 12 goals last campaign. Andersson has to start producing more if Koln wants to win games anytime soon, but he’ll have a tough test ahead of him against an improved Bremen backline.
If the Swede can find the back of the net, though, then it should give him a big confidence boost going into the rest of the year.
Last time out
These two sides faced off on the final day of last season. It was a game Bremen needed to win to avoid automatic relegation, and they did just that in some style, defeating Koln 6-1.
Yuya Osako would open the scoring, as a shot from Maximilian Eggestein somehow fell to him in the area, and he managed to pick out the top corner with an excellent strike.
That led to an attacking explosion from the Green-Whites, as Milot Rashica hit on the counter before Niclas Fullkrug volleyed home only moments later to make it 3-0 before halftime.
Bremen scored another only 10 minutes after the break when Davy Klaassen slotted home a rebound from Rashica’s initial effort that deflected and then hit the post. Osako grabbed his brace moments later, rifling a shot into the back of the net following an excellent low cross from Theodor Gebre Selassie.
Koln finally scored one of their own as Dominick Drexler pounced on a misplaced back pass, but the Green-Whites would restore their five goal advantage before the day was done, with Josh Sargent chipping the goalkeeper to seal the remarkable scoreline.
It was a dream performance from Bremen, who ultimately managed to stay up after beating FC Heidenheim in the relegation-playoff.
Where to watch
In the UK, the contest will be aired on BT Sport 2, while fans in the United States can watch the game on ESPN+.