Germany's two remaining international sides have excellent chances in Thursday's UEFA Cup matches, having both won their first-leg games. But if they progress, they'll meet each other.
With Bayern out of the Champions League, Germany's hopes now rest on Hamburg...
If the two teams both do advance to the semifinals, it will mean Germany is guaranteed a spot in the UEFA Cup final in Istanbul on May 20. And such a match-up would be all the more of a treat since the two Northern German sides are also local rivals with no love lost.
But for that scenario to come to pass, both teams need to close the deal on the road -- Hamburg against English Premier side Manchester City, and Bremen versus Italian Serie A competitors Udinese.
Bremen should be fairly confident, as their Italian opponents are languishing in 12th place in their domestic league.
But Werder are only tenth in the Bundesliga, and their talented Brazilian playmaker Diego is touch-and-go ahead of the clash in Italy. What's more, coach Thomas Schaaf will have to hope that his inconsistent defense has one of its better evenings.
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...and Werder Bremen in the UEFA Cup
Hamburg, with the third-best record in the Germany, will also fancy their chances against Man City, who are currently in eleventh place in the Premier League.
Coach Martin Jol has no serious injury worries, although Hamburg should be aware that City do have a very good home record. Still, the Northern Germans have been difficult to score against in all competitions this season so there's no reason why they shouldn't prevail in Manchester.
And even if Bremen or Hamburg or both should falter on Thursday evening, they'll still be seeing a bit of one another in the coming weeks.
The two rivals meet for a league match next week and clash again in the semifinals of the German Cup on May 10.
Author: Jefferson Chase