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Werder Bremen

Werder Bremen player Diego Ribas da Cunha gives the thumb up

Werder's Diego chose Beijing over Bremen

In recent years, Bremen have been Bayern Munich's biggest rivals for the league title, but as of three days before the start of the 2008-09 campaign, they hadn't done much to improve on last season's 2nd-place finish. Midfielder Torsten Frings has said the team needs a top-class striker to take that all-important step one rung up. Bosnian Said Huseinovic does not exactly fit that description.

A good year by Boboucar Sanogo, who started strong in 2007-08, only to be hindered by injury, might be enough to render missed transfer opportunities irrelevant. But Werder start the season beaten up and short-handed. Defender Per Mertesacker will miss at least a few weeks with injury, while playmaker Diego, Bremen's most valuable player, went AWOL to compete at the Olympics rather than train with his club.

On paper, you'd expect Bremen to tail off a bit. But that's the case every season, and offensively minded coach Thomas Schaaf always has them in the hunt when it counts.

Major Arrivals: Sebastian Proedl

Major Departures: Patrick Owomoyela, Pierre Wome, Ivan Klasnic, Tim Borowski