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Champions League Preview: Werder Bremen v Sampdoria

The Jaded Genius: Antonio Cassano.

Champions League hopefuls Werder Bremen face Sampdoria in what will be the juiciest of ties during this Champions League qualifying round. Werder Bremen finished third in the Bundesliga last season, while Sampdoria nipped into fourth place ahead of Palermo and Napoli.

The loss of Mesut Ozil will cast doubts over Werder Bremen’s chances of progressing with a win from this two-legged tie, and so it should. Werder Bremen now lack an experienced, creative, quality attacking midfielder to sit in behind the strikers and carve opposition back-lines open with killer balls. Werder Bremen will rely heavily now on Marko Marin and Aaron Hunt to provide the creativity in midfield that Mesut Ozil brought to the side with relative ease and comfort. Here’s a possible starting line-up, which will not include injured central defender Naldo.

Wiese – Fritz, Mertesacker, Pasanen, Boenisch – Hunt, Frings, Bargfrede, Marin – Pizarro, Almeida

Werder Bremen will have to contest with one of the best attacking midfield players in Europe: Antonio Cassano. Frings’ importance in this fixture cannot be underlined enough, Cassano must be kept quiet or he will absolutely terrorize Werder Bremen’s defense. His creativity, his passing ability and his understanding with strike partner Giampaolo Pazzini could really be the difference in this tie. Frings will have to track Cassano entirely, which may allow Sampdoria midfield general Angelo Palombo to take control of the match. Here’s a possible Sampdoria starting eleven:

Curci – Stankevicius, Lucchini, Gastaldello, Ziegler – Semioli, Poli, Palombo, Mannini – Cassano – Pazzini

Cassano will sit in behind Pazzini – much like Mesut Ozil would do for the German national team – and look to play in his strike partner and Sampdoria’s wingers at every opportunity. His class will likely shine through, and I can see Sampdoria advancing with Werder Bremen dropping out of the Champions League and into the Europa League.

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