Borussia Dortmund welcome Werder Bremen to the Westfalenstadion in a game that kicks off an important month for the hosts.
However, this match is of one of the less important matches of April for Dortmund, as their second place position is all but clinched. A win against Bremen secures a third-place or better finish for BVB. Even better, if Hertha BSC lose on Sunday to Gladbach, then Dortmund will have secured second place.
Dortmund have had a lot of success against Bremen in the past few years, winning eight of their last nine games against Bremen, while the last time Werder took any points against Dortmund in the Westfalenstadion was in 2007. In the teams’ most recent encounter, Dortmund were victorious on the road by a scoreline of 3-1. Marco Reus opened the scoring, and finished the game off late with a second goal.
After an impressive Rückrunde in the 2014-2015 season, Viktor Skripnik’s Bremen side haven’t experienced the same success thus far. They are, quite impressively, still alive in the DFB Pokal, facing Bayern in the semifinals after defeating Köln, Gladbach and Leverkusen in consecutive rounds. However, Skripnik’s team is still only one point above the relegation zone and boasts the joint-worst defensive record in the Bundesliga.
Dortmund will need all three points if they’re to keep any hopes of a title challenge alive, as Bayern face a struggling Eintracht Frankfurt side they’ll likely take care of. With the Europa League quarterfinal against Liverpool looming, Thomas Tuchel might opt to rest a player or two, as he’s done a fantastic job rotating the squad with minimal effect to the team’s cohesion and quality of play.
Ilkay Gündogan remains doubtful with a bruised foot, which has been an ongoing ailment for over a month now. It’s likely a severe bone bruise, rather than just a small knock that it was originally thought to be. In his absence before the international break, Julian Weigl and Gonzalo Castro stepped up their performances to another level, as Weigl showed glimpses of a complete midfielder against Spurs, while Castro changed the game and scored against Augsburg and made a Gündogan-esque run to set up the opening goal against Mainz.
Thankfully, BVB did not pick up any new injuries over the international break, despite many players featuring for their countries. Mats Hummels was subbed off at halftime during Germany’s friendly with England due to muscle cramps, but played the whole 90 minutes in the win over Italy just three days later. Hummels should be good to go, along with Marcel Schmelzer, whose fitness probably benefitted from the call-up he didn’t receive from Jogi Löw.
As for Bremen, things did not go so well for their leading goalscorer Claudio Pizarro, who was removed from Peru’s 1-0 loss to Uruguay with a back injury. His availability for the weekend is doubtful, but will be decided on Friday, per the team’s twitter page. Bremen will also have to do without Chelsea loanee Papy Djilobodji, a centre-back who received a nice two game suspension for a slit-throat gesture he made towards Mainz’s midfielder Pablo de Blasis. On top of that, he also picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in that game, making it a three game ban. Djilobodji had been one of the few bright spots for the team, but his act of stupidity has landed himself a spell on the sidelines.
Striker Anthony Ujah, who scored the equalizer in Dortmund’s 3-1 win against Bremen earlier this season, will likely lead the line Pizarro’s absence. Since transferring from Köln in the summer, Ujah has done well in his first season at Werder, scoring nine league goals, to go along with Pizarro’s 11. Bremen have the offensive ability to score some goals, but it’s been their woeful defense that has caused them problems this season. Alejandro Galvez will likely replace Djilobodji in Werder’s already frail defense.
Dortmund should be able to take of advantage of Werder Bremen’s shaky defense, especially considering their previous successes at home against the team from the Weser. Bayern’s attack made the Werder Bremen defense look silly a couple of weeks ago in a 5-0 pounding at the Allianz Arena, but Skripnik backs his team to not repeat that performance against Dortmund.
Starting off April on the right foot would give Dortmund some much needed momentum and form going into the most crucial matches of the season.
Dortmund: Bürki, Piszczek, Sokratis, Hummels, Schmelzer, Weigl, Castro, Kagawa, Reus, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang
Werder Bremen: Wiedwald, Gebre Selassie, Vestergaard, Galvez, Garcia, Grillitsch, Öztunali, Fritz, Junuzovic, Bartels, Ujah