As the international competitions resume after the winter break, Werder Bremen host AC Milan in the UEFA Cup. The match is a chance for both teams to get back on track after domestic disappointments.
Stumbling Bremen want to redeem themselves
Regardless of the outcome, Werder Bremen fans may want to savor the match against Milan on Wednesday, February 18. Their team may well not be playing international football next season.
A fixture for many years in the Champions League and the UEFA Cup, Bremen are in the bottom half of the Bundesliga table -- 13 points behind leaders Hertha Berlin and 9 behind fifth-placed Leverkusen.
A win against one of the most prestigious clubs in Europe would lift some of the gloom that's currently hanging over the Weser River Stadium and perhaps spark a comeback in the league.
But Milan will be aiming to make amends as well. After losing to their city rivals Inter Milan last weekend, AC are down to third in Italy's Serie A and eleven points from the top of the table.
Diego has had some major discipline issues
With both teams highly motivated, the match promises to be one of those irresistible-force-meets-immovable-object encounters.
Werder still play the same sort of up-tempo, offensive soccer they always have under coach Thomas Schaaf -- albeit with less successful results.
They'll be bolstered, too, by the return of Brazilian playmaker Diego, who's been serving a lengthy suspension in the league. But they'll have to compensate for the absence of midfielder Torsten Frings, who's banned for the Milan match.
AC Milan, on the other hand, will probably employ a defensive 4-3-2-1 formation and hope to catch Bremen out on the counter-attack.
Since winning the Champions League in 2007, AC have fallen on hard times
But they may find it hard to generate much offensive pressure since their star playmaker Kaka is out with an injury. Mathieu Flamini has been tipped one possible replacement, although he's far more defensively oriented than the Brazilian.
In other Wednesday matches, resurgent Stuttgart will make a frosty trip to Russia to take on last year's UEFA Cup winners Zenit St. Petersburg.
The other two German clubs in the competition also have away matched. Hamburg square off against Dutch side NEC Nijmegen while Wolfsburg taclle Paris St. Germain -- both beatable opponents.