MX23RW : Monday, February 18 06:57:26
Aug 15, 2015 at 2.30pm UK at ‚ÄčWeserstadion
Werder Bremen
SchalkeSchalke 04
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Preview: Werder Bremen vs. Schalke 04

Sports Mole takes a closer look at both sides ahead of the Bundesliga clash between Werder Bremen and Schalke 04.

Two sides looking to prove they are capable of challenging higher up the Bundesliga table will start the season against each other on Saturday when Werder Bremen host Schalke 04.

Schalke slipped to a disappointing sixth-place finish after a poor finish to last season, while Werder recovered from a frustrating start to the campaign to fall just short of Europa League qualification.

Werder Bremen

Bremen's midfielder Felix Kroos (L) and Bremen's striker Davie Selke celebrate after scoring during the German first division Bundesliga football match against Wolfsburg on March 1, 2015© Getty Images

For much of last season, it appeared that Werder Bremen were heading for a nervy relegation battle before an impressive run of form in the second half of the campaign carried them to 10th place.

In any other year a mid-table finish may have not been accepted so readily by Bremen's supporters, but after a dismal start which saw them go without a win in their opening nine matches, the future immediately looked brighter under the guidance of Viktor Skrypnyk, who replaced Robin Dutt in October.

Werder would be locked in a congested bottom half of the table until a fine run of form over the winter fired them up the table and raised hopes of a possible spot in the Europa League, before their momentum was finally halted.

Skrypnyk has quickly improved the mood surrounding the club and with a number of talented youngster in his squad, the club's fans will hope that the Ukrainian coach can keep the team in contention for European qualification for as long as possible, and Saturday's opener will be a good measure of how far they have come.

A summer of change has taken place at the club, with Davie Selke and Eljero Elia among the players to be sold before Franco Di Santo completed his switch to Schalke, and all eyes will be on the latter this weekend as the Argentine looks to show what Werder will be missing this season.

Much of the pressure will rest on the shoulders of Anthony Ujah, who netted 10 Bundesliga goals for FC Koln last season, and he offered a sign of his quality last weekend by scoring in extra time to help his new side beat Wurzburger Kickers 2-0 in the DFB-Pokal.

Pre-season form: WWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): W


:Schalkeīs players celebrate during the German Cup DFB Pokal first round football match between MSV Duisburg and Schalke 04 in Duisburg, western Germany on August 8, 2015.© Getty Images

Schalke's supporters will be hoping that the second half of last season can be quickly forgotten when Andre Breitenreiter takes charge of the side for the first time in the Bundesliga this Saturday.

In a roller-coaster campaign for the Gelsenkirchen club, Roberto Di Matteo appeared to be the saviour when he arrived to replace Jens Keller last October before leading the team to the Champions League knockout stages and ensuring they were in contention to qualify for the competition again after a dismal start to the season.

However, the honeymoon period came to a halt in 2015 and any hopes of reaching the Champions League again were dashed as Di Matteo watched his side win just twice in their last 10 league matches.

The Italian stepped away before being pushed at the end of the season, and the club moved quickly to appoint Breitenreiter, who was unable to keep SC Paderborn in the Bundesliga, despite shocking the league with an impressive start to their first campaign in the top flight of German football.

After guiding a side considered underdogs for three years, Breitenreiter will be fully aware that the pressure on his shoulders is very different as he looks to prove that Schalke can compete with the likes of Wolfsburg, Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund for a return to the Champions League.

Di Santo, Johannes Geis and Sascha Riether were the key arrivals for the club the summer, but with the speculation surrounding the future of Julian Draxler still stealing headlines, Schalke could be forced into the transfer market again before the end of the window.

A 5-0 thrashing of Duisburg in the DFB-Pokal last weekend boosted confidence heading into the league campaign, but the fans will be keen to see how the side cope against a team looking to push them for a spot in the top six.

Pre-season form: LDWWDD
Recent form (all competitions): W

Team News

Schalke's midfielder Julian Draxler celebrates after scoring during the German first division Bundesliga football match against Eintracht Frankfurt on September 20, 2014© Getty Images

After a season which saw many of their key players miss long spells due to injury, Schalke will be delighted to start the season with very few fitness concerns, and new signings Geis and Di Santo are both likely to start.

Many have predicted the performances of Leon Goretzka could be key to Schalke's success, and the midfielder is in line to play on Saturday, while Draxler is a certainty to start unless a club moves close to securing his services before the weekend.

However, captain Benedikt Howedes will miss out for the visitors as he continues to work on his fitness following an ankle injury.

Di Santo is likely to be the centre of attention prior to kickoff, but Werder fans will be excited to see his replacement make an impact in the Bundesliga as Ujah looks set to lead the line for the home side.

Fin Bartels will be expected to provide the main support for the Nigerian, while Philipp Bargfrede and Zlatko Junuzovic should both be in Skrypnyk's lineup.

Werder Bremen possible starting lineup:
Wiedwald, Lukimya, Gebre Selassie, Vestergaard, Garcia, Bargfrede, Grillitsch, Junuzovic, Eggestein, Bartels, Ujah

Schalke possible starting lineup:
Fahrmann, Junior, Nastasic, Matip, Aogo, Meyer, Goretzka, Draxler, Choupo-Moting, Di Santo, Huntelaar

Head To Head

Schalke were triumphant on their last trip to Bremen, with Max Meyer, Roman Neustadter and Tranquilo Barnetta on the scoresheet in a 3-0 victory, but Sebastian Prodl denied them a league double by scoring a stoppage-time equaliser in February's clash.

It is a meeting which has been dominated by the men in blue in recent years, with Schalke unbeaten in the last 10 Bundesliga games between the two sides.

Mesut Ozil and Hugo Almeida were on target for Bremen when they last beat Schalke back in May 2010.

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We say: Werder Bremen 2-2 Schalke

Schalke may have dominated the fixture in recent years, but there are more than a few nerves for the visiting supporters ahead of the opener as they wait to see if Breitenreiter can bring success to the club. Their attacking talent should cause problems for Werder, who will be determined to make a statement on the first day of the Bundesliga campaign.

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Wolfsburg's Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne celebrates scoring with his team-mates during the German Cup DFB Pokal final football match between BVB Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on May 30, 2015
Read Next:
DFB-Pokal roundup: Wolfsburg through in style

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