German side Werder Bremen kicks off its Champions League run with a qualifying match against Italy's Sampdoria. Bremen will play without star midfielder Mesut Oezil, who transferred to Real Madrid earlier this week.
With Oezil gone, others will have to provide attacking impulse
After spending last season in the second-tier Europa League, German side Werder Bremen are eager to return to the top table of European club competition ahead of their first qualifying match in this year's Champions League.
Prior to last season, Bremen had played in the Champions League for five straight years. Now, the only thing standing between them and a return trip to the Champions League group stage is a two-legged playoff against Italy's SC Sampdoria.
Sampdoria have not been to the Champions League since they reached the final in the 1991/92 season and will have the advantage of playing the final match of the series at home.
Marko Marin will likely feature more this season
Werder Bremen will be without a few of its familiar faces from last season. The major absence is midfielder Mesut Oezil, who completed a transfer to Real Madrid earlier this week. The 21-year-old was a key part of Bremen's attack last season and played a significant role in Germany's third place finish at the World Cup.
With Oezil gone, young winger Marko Marin will be expected to provide a creative force going forward.
Brazilian defender Naldo is questionable for both legs of the series due to a knee injury.
In other Champions League qualifiers, Young Boys Bern pulled off an impresive win against Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 in Switzerland Tuesday. Despite quickly establishing a 3-0 lead in the first half, Bern condeded two critical away goals to Tottenham before the match was over, keeping alive the English side's hopes of advancing in the Champions League in the second leg of the series next week in London.
Author: Matt Zuvela
Editor: Rob Turner