20:45 (CEST), Saturday 12th August, Sparda-Bank Hessen Stadion (Offenbach am Main, Germany)
A change of scenery for Würzburger Kickers as they move their DFB Pokal 1st round match 110 km down the road to Offenbach. The Kickers are one of nine sides making the switch of stadium with the Flyeralarm Arena in Würzburg unable to accommodate the night fixture.
Würzburg have struggled since being relegated from the second division and are yet to win this season.
Their opponents, Werder Bremen, have had a solid pre-season with plenty of positives as they gear up for the Bundesliga season. In their last campaign, Bremen had a disastrous start, but then came on strong later in the season which included an 11-game unbeaten run as they finished 8th.
Werder have a tough start to the Bundesliga season and a win will give the squad the needed confidence as they prepare for Hoffenheim next week.
Last Time Out
Magdeburg 2-1 Würzburger Kickers
Without a win in three games, Würzburger Kickers desperately need three points as they travelled to face a well-supported Magdeburg side. Getting off to a good start would be key for the Kickers, but that didn’t happen.
A terrible defensive error by Anthony Syhre gifted the first goal to Tobias Schwede and moments later captain Stefan Neumann fouled Philip Türpitz in the area. Richard Weil sending Wolfgang Hesl the wrong way.
Würzburg then gained control of the game, but couldn’t find a way past a stubborn Magdeburg defence. The travelling contingent had to wait until the 80th minute when substitute Enis Bytyqi scored after an excellent through ball by Emmanual Taffertshofer. It wasn’t enough as Würzburg still search for their first win this calendar year.
Werder Bremen 1-2 Valencia
Werder Bremen’s final pre-season game was a home fixture against La Liga club Valencia. It was the visitors who opened the scoring with captain Daniel Parejo scoring an excellent free kick, which keeper Jiri Pavlenka should’ve done better with.
Bremen controlled the game with 60% possession and in the second half they got their deserved reward with great team play to progress the ball the entire length of the pitch.
Fin Bartels provided the pivotal pass and Max Kruse finished with a tap in. Valencia stole the victory with a comical error as substitute keeper Michael Zetterer was put under pressure by the Bremen defence and Toni Lato buried the chance to give the visitors the win.
Würzburger Kickers Lineup
On the injury front, Würzburg almost have a complete squad to choose from with only defensive midfielder Florian Kohls the one missing out.
Enis Bytyqi gave the Kickers an edge going forward, which led to his goal last time out, and he should get the start ahead of Dominic Baumann. We expect Würzburg to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation on Saturday night.
Werder Bremen Lineup
Manager Alexander Nouri has plenty of players to choose from, but injuries and suspensions will see a different look to Bremen across the park.
Zlatko Junuzović and Niklas Moisander, pivotal contributors for Werder, are out with injury and Fin Bartels will miss through suspension.
Robert Bauer will slot into the back three whilst new signing Jerome Gondorf will play with Thomas Delaney in central midfield. The question remains: Who will partner Max Kruse up front? The favourite is Florian Kainz.
Key Battle: Wolfgang Hesl vs Jiri Pavlenka
Our key battle for this contest revolves around the shot-stoppers who will play a pivotal role for their respective sides. Hesl is under plenty of pressure to perform; it’s his third club in three seasons after stints with Greuther Fürth and Arminia Bielefeld.
His form has been sub-par and he’s failed to keep a clean sheet in his first four outings for Würzburg. A much younger Patrick Drewes is waiting in the wings and another poor performance from Hesl could force the change between the sticks.
Pavlenka is a newcomer from Slavia Prague after the sale of Felix Wiedwald to Championship side Leeds United. The Czech shot-stopper will make his first proper appearance for Bremen and will want to make the ultimate impression on manager Nouri.
Now that Pavlenka has reached the big time in one of the top five leagues, we will see if he is the real deal for Bremen.
New pitch, new opportunity
Würzburger Kickers as a club need something to pull themselves out of the ultimate slump they are currently in. Their last league/cup victory came in the form of a 3-0 triumph against Stuttgart on December 18th.
Since that day it has been 21 straight games without the taste of victory, only accumulating nine points. Will playing in front of a larger crowd in Offenbach spur the Kickers on to a first win this year?
The German has been in the headlines with questions around whether he will stay at Werder Bremen with multiple sides from abroad looking to lure the 29-year-old away from the Weserstadion.
Kruse was key for Bremen last season, scoring 15 goals and providing seven assists on his way to Bremen’s Player of the Year award.
Without his partner in crime Fin Bartels due to suspension, it will be interesting to see how Kruse can perform alongside a Florian Kainz who generally plays a wider role. The chemistry between the two will be key if Bremen are to progress to the next round.
First round blues
Since their final appearance in 2010, where they were beaten 4-0 by Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen have had some difficulties navigating past the first round.
In their past seven DFB Pokal campaigns, Bremen have been bounced out of the first round four times, twice in extra time.
Manager Alexander Nouri will be wary of this and will try everything to ensure it isn’t the second season in a row that Bremen have been eliminated by 3. Liga opposition.
PREDICTION: Würzburger Kickers 1-2 Werder Bremen (ET)
Würzburger Kickers might not have a win in 2017, but this is the kind of game that could kick start their season.
As was mentioned, Bremen are extremely vulnerable in the first round and perhaps an opportunistic Kickers outfit could provide a shocking upset. Everything will have to fall into place for that to happen, but I can’t see that manifesting as Werder grind out a victory in Offenbach.
Will Würzburger Kickers cause an upset against Werder Bremen? Let us know in the comments section below.
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