Borussia Dortmund host Werder Bremen on Matchday 28 of the 2015/16 Bundesliga season at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday.
Both teams need to pick up momentum quickly after the March international break. The hosts need to keep up the pressure on table-toppers Bayern Munich, who hold a five-point advantage over the Black and Yellows, while Bremen are 14th in the table, only one point ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt in the first direct relegation spot.
Trips to the Westfalenstadion haven't been pleasant for Saturday's visitors in recent years: Dortmund have won eight home matches in a row against Bremen, dating back to 2007.
Considering the Black and Yellows' impressive home form all season long, the northern Germans won't have anything to lose:
They could pull off a surprise like they did at Bayer Leverkusen, where they won 4-1 on March 2, or they could fall on their faces like they did at Bayern, where they lost 5-0 10 days later.
Dortmund won the first meeting of the year in late October 3-1.
Date: Saturday, April 2
Time: 5:30 p.m. BST/12:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. local time
Venue: Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
TV Info: BT Sport Europe (UK only)/Fox (U.S. only)
Live Stream: BT Sport live streaming (UK only)/Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S. only)
|Bayern: Draw (0-0)||Darmstadt: Draw (2-2)|
|Tottenham: Win (3-0)||Leverkusen: Win (4-1)|
|Mainz: Win (2-0)||Hannover: Win (4-1)|
|Tottenham: Win (2-1)||Bayern: Loss (5-0)|
|Augsburg: Win (3-1)||Mainz: Draw (1-1)|
All 14 players who were on international duty returned to Dortmund without injuries or even knocks. Julian Weigl didn't travel to Russia with the Germany under-21 side because of an illness, but the 20-year-old participated in team training during the week.
Ilkay Gundogan is likely out, he's still nursing a bruised foot, while Neven Subotic also missed team training on Thursday with an illness. The fourth-choice centre-back was unlikely to feature, anyway.
The centre-back spot next to team captain Mats Hummels is up for grabs, with former Bremen defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Sven Bender competing for the starting job. Gonzalo Castro ably replaced Gundogan before the international break and should get another start in midfield.
Predicted Starting XI: Burki; Piszczek, Sokratis, Hummels, Schmelzer; Castro, Weigl, Kagawa; Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Reus.
Head coach Viktor Skripnik wasn't quite as lucky as his counterpart Thomas Tuchel. Bremen's most important player, 37-year-old striker Claudio Pizarro, picked up a pelvic contusion on international duty with Peru and is questionable for the Dortmund match:
Even if he's fit to make the trip, it seems unlikely that he'll be risked in a game Bremen won't expect to take anything away from.
Chelsea loanee Papy Djilobodji, meanwhile, has been suspended for two matches after his throat-slitting gesture towards Mainz attacker Pablo de Blasis and will likely be replaced by Alejandro Galvez in central defence. To make matters worse for Djilobodji, the Senegalese also picked up a fifth booking of the season against Mainz and will miss an additional match.
Predicted Starting XI: Wiedwald; Gebre Selassie, Vestergaard, Galvez, Garcia; Grillitsch; Oztunali, Fritz, Junuzovic, Bartels; Ujah.
Players to Watch
Bremen are midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan's favourite opponent: The Armenia international has won all four of his games against Saturday's visitors, scoring four goals himself and assisting another two, per Transfermarkt.co.uk.
The 27-year-old was the best player on the pitch in the earlier meeting of the season, scoring the go-ahead goal and assisting both of Marco Reus' goals as well. Since Armenia only played one friendly during the international break, Mkhitaryan should be well-rested and eager to hit the ground running against his favourite victims.
As for Bremen, Pizarro would be the obvious player to watch after his sensational March, as evidenced by the numbers stat provider Opta tweeted:
The 37-year-old is truly an ageless wonder and will become Bremen's all-time leading goalscorer with his next goal. Since that is somewhat unlikely to come at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday, however, let's focus on Zlatko Junuzovic.
The Austria international is one of the Bundesliga's best set-piece takers and has already assisted seven goals this season, per Transfermarkt. If his Bremen side are to steal a point or three from Dortmund, chances are one of his dead-ball deliveries will be the reason.
Felix Wiedwald vs. Dortmund's Attack
As German sport magazine Kicker pointed out in their Thursday edition, Bremen goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald has only kept one clean sheet in his 36 top-flight starts for Frankfurt and Werder. That came on Matchday 13 of the 2014/15 season for Frankfurt against—you guessed it—Dortmund.
Bremen have the joint-worst defensive record in the league, having already conceded 54 goals this season. That's a big reason why they've also lost the second most games, 13, trailing only Hannover's 20 defeats.
Having conceded five of those goals at Allianz Arena on March 12, Bremen supporters won't be overly optimistic Wiedwald will be able to keep Dortmund—who have scored only one goal less than Bayern this season so far—at bay.
Goals are more or less guaranteed in this fixture anyway, seeing as only three of the 90 meetings between the two clubs have ended goalless, per Dortmund's official website.
Odds (via Odds Shark)