Ingolstadt face a pivotal clash on Matchday 30 as they face the uphill battle of climbing out of the relegation zone when they host a Werder Bremen side that is on fire and unbeaten in their last nine matches. Werder Bremen continued their excellent form with a come-from-behind victory in the Nord Derby over Hamburg, whilst Ingolstadt's recent unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of a strong Wolfsburg. Currently four points adrift of safety, Ingolstadt need a lot of help if they are to scramble out of the danger zone, but a win can help their cause. A victory for Bremen and helpful results elsewhere could see them end Matchday 30 in a Europa League place.
LAST TIME OUT
Wolfsburg 3-0 Ingolstadt
Ingolstadt made the long journey north to Wolfsburg as they looked to extend their winning streak to four games. Die Schanzer nearly took the lead when Dario Lezcano’s header was parried away by Koen Casteels. However, it would be Wolfsburg who took the lead when Yannick Gerhardt’s cross was turned in by Markus Suttner, with keeper Ørjan Nyland left helpless. Ingolstadt were then on the backfoot and they would eventually concede a second when Maximillian Arnold strolled down the by-line before Yunus Malli coolly scored past Nyland. The game would be all but lost for Ingolstadt with ten minutes remaining when Yannick Gerhardt’s sumptuous cross was met by Mario Gomez, who produced a un-saveable finish. The defeat sees Ingolstadt go four points behind Mainz and Augsburg with five games remaining, survival is looking unlikely for Maik Walpurgis’s side.
Werder Bremen 2-1 Hamburg
The 106th Bundesliga Nord Derby saw Werder Bremen welcome Hamburg to the Weserstadion. Bremen fans pelted the Hamburg bus with green paint to signal that it was very much a derby game. Werder almost took the lead inside of the first minute when Max Kruse's effort was excellently saved by stand-in keeper Christian Mathenia. However, it would be their former player, Aaron Hunt - who hasn’t played in Bremen in almost three years - who would haunt his former club when he delivered a pin point cross for Michael Gregoritsch to give Hamburg the lead. Werder had dominated proceedings and even though they feel behind, before the break, Bremen would level the scores when Fin Bartels cushioned the cross from Santiago Garcia to Max Kruse - who had started the move - headed in his ninth of the campaign. All derbies have a hero, and in the 106th rendition, it would be substitute Florian Kainz. The midfielder, who had only been on the pitch for 12 minutes, was played in by Max Kruse before beating Mathenia at his near post. Bremen, who were in trouble for so long this season, find themselves in eighth and only two points from a Europa League place.
Ingolstadt put in a poor performance last time out as they were beaten comfortably by Wolfsburg. Maik Walpurgis will still be without one of his main midfielders in Roman Brégerie, as he is still suspended. Ingolstadt have looked vulnerable in defence but they will, once again, run out with Roger, Marcel Tisserand, and Marvin Matip at the back. Ørjan Nyland was a late replacement for Martin Hansen, who has been ill, but if the Dane is available, he will start between the sticks for Ingolstadt.
Werder Bremen lineup
Alexander Nouri has turned Werder Bremen around as they now see themselves with a chance of qualifying for the Europa League. However, they will enter their clash with Ingolstadt without midfield maestro Zlatko Junuzović, who picked up his fifth yellow of the season. Bremen will have two options, to have Florian Grillitsch and Maximillian Eggestein in central midfield, or play Serge Gnabry - who will be available to start - but I expect Nouri to start Florian Kainz in midfield. Santiago Garcia picked up a knock against Hamburg and it's likely that he will miss the clash in Ingolstadt, so Robert Bauer will get the start against his former club as Bremen look to make it ten games undefeated.
It's an important part of football and for both Ingolstadt and Werder Bremen it has been an adequate way for them to find the back of the net. From set pieces in the Bundesliga this season, only Hoffenheim (18) have scored more times than Ingolstadt and Werder Bremen, who are second and third for goals from set pieces, respectively. For Ingolstadt, set pieces have ultimately kept them in any contention of survival, with 17 of their 31 goals coming from either a free-kick, corner, throw in, or penalty. That accumulates to 54 percent of Ingolstadt’s goals this season.
For Werder Bremen, they have found the net 16 times from set pieces, which is only 34 percent of all of their goals this season, and they have recently found their scoring range from all over. Goals are very likely in this fixture and don’t be surprised if one finds the net from a set piece.
Max Kruse came to Werder Bremen under a cloud which had seen a turbulent couple of seasons at Borussia Mönchengladbach and Wolfsburg, which saw many questioning if the forward had the desire to still play the game. However, Werder Bremen have reaped the rewards of bringing Kruse at the Weserstadion, with the former German international scoring nine goals and dishing up four assists from 18 appearances this season. Over the past four games, Max Kruse has been in peak form. After missing the game against RB Leipzig, Kruse has all of his four assists in this time frame, whilst also scoring three times (against Freiburg, Schalke, and Hamburg). Werder Bremen will be hoping that Kruse can continue this rich vein of form that has seen the green and whites climb to eighth in the standings.
Prediction: Ingolstadt 1-2 Werder Bremen
Ingolstadt have five games, including their fixture with Werder Bremen, to produce an escape from the relegation zone, whilst Werder Bremen could make an unlikely rise to a Europa League place. However, Ingolstadt will run into a red hot Bremen side and I just can’t see Die Schanzer being able to contain the green and whites. I’m expecting Ingolstadt to put in a solid shift, but it will be Werder Bremen who take all three points.
Can Werder Bremen extend their unbeaten streak to ten? Let us know in the comments.