No room for error: fallen giants Werder Bremen battle to stay up


Berlin (AFP) – They have spent more seasons in the Bundesliga than any other club but now Werder Bremen have just seven games left to avoid a humiliating relegation that would see them follow the same path to the second division taken by fallen German giants Hamburg and Stuttgart in recent years.

Florian Kohfeldt’s embattled side are second from bottom of the Bundesliga before Saturday’s trip to Schalke, five points adrift of the relegation play-off position and six points from outright safety, albeit with a game in hand on their rivals.

“We don’t have time for the slightest carelessness now,” admitted Kohfeldt, whose team have been given hope by their last two results, with a win at Freiburg being followed by a goalless midweek draw with Borussia Moenchengladbach.

“We still have seven ‘finals’ left, and we have to stay focused.”

One of those will be against Bayern Munich, against whom they lost 6-1 away in December.

It is a while now since Bremen were able to compete with the very best sides in Germany, but the club from the Hanseatic city in the north of the country have a proud past.

Four-time champions, they have been in the Bundesliga for every season bar one since the league’s introduction in 1963. They were relegated in 1980, but came straight back up.

Werder have not appeared in Europe since the 2010-11 Champions League and it is 11 years since they lifted silverware, when Mesut Ozil scored the winner in the 2009 German Cup final against Bayer Leverkusen.

That came days after Bremen reached the last-ever UEFA Cup final, which they lost to Shakhtar Donetsk.

The last of their four Bundesliga titles was in 2004, a year in which they won the domestic double.

– Hard times –

But after a couple of close brushes with relegation in recent seasons, Bremen could now be set for the same fate as their near neighbours and arch rivals Hamburg, the former European Cup winners who dropped into the second division in 2018, in their case for the very first time.

Stuttgart went the same way a year ago, another giant to have fallen on hard times while younger clubs like Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig have shaken up the established order in German football.

Relegation would be an unthinkable blow for Werder, a proud club where Germany greats like Rudi Voeller and Karl-Heinz Riedle starred in the famous green shirt in the past.

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