By Barry Whelan, dpa
Berlin (dpa) – Struggling Werder Bremen face rampant Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup on Tuesday badly needing a confidence boost in what has become a Bundesliga relegation fight for the northern Germans.
Bremen have slipped to third last in the league and will have one eye on a key home match against Union Berlin on Saturday as they seek what coach Florian Kohfeldt calls “a special moment” against Dortmund in the last 16 to turn their fortunes around.
“It’s giving me a headachethat we never managed to carry our game through all the time,” he said after a 2-1 defeat at Augsburg on Saturday following a 1-0 lead.
“We have to deliver results as quickly as possible in the next few weeks.”
Kohfeldt, who had his contract extended in the summer to 2023, so far has the backing of the club management but badly needs results to avert a deepening crisis.
“I can understand the concerns of the Werder fans, I am after all both Werder coach and a Werder fan,” he said.
“Particularly in this phase as coach I try to radiate confidence and calm and know that the team is right behind me, and also that the management is behind me and that there is total confidence.”
Reaching the quarter-finals would be a bonus for Bremen, who won the last of their six cup titles in 2009, even if the cup is something of a distraction in view of their precarious position in the league.
A tough programme is also ahead with matches at second-placed RB Leipzig and again at home against Dortmund following the weekend encounter with Union.
Considering Bremen’s poor defensive record in the league – 46 goals conceded is the second-worse – Dortmund have good reason to relish their trip after 15 goals in their last three games, including seven for new signing Erling Braut Haaland.
Bremen are also favoured opponents for Dortmund captain Marco Reus, who has 14 goals in 18 competitive games against the green-whites including at least one in each of the last five.
Leipzig meanwhile visit Eintracht Frankfurt on Tuesday, while on Wednesday holders Bayern Munich, now back on top of the Bundesliga, greet Hoffenheim in their record-extending 19th straight last-16 match.
The cup games come ahead of a crunch top-of-the table clash between Bayern and second-placed Leipzig on Sunday.
“That’s the real Bayern,” captain Manuel Neuer said after a 3-1 victory at Mainz on Saturday, a sixth successive win in the league.
“We need to keep this up. We’re determined to get through to the next round.”
In an all-Bundesliga duel, Schalke greet Hertha Berlin on Tuesday after the two sides fought out a stale goalless draw in the league in Berlin on Friday.
“A final in Berlin is what everyone wants here in Berlin,” Hertha coach Juergen Klinsmann said with a view to the May 23 final in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.
“I can absolutely understand the longing for a cup win in our own stadium. It would be very nice to take a big step (on Tuesday).”
Hertha have never won the German Cup, with the club the losing finalists three times. However the first two occasions, in 1977 and 1979, the matches were in Hanover, and in 1993 it was Hertha’s amateur reserve team which lost the final to Bayer Leverkusen in the Olympic Stadium.
Leverkusen greet VfB Stuttgart, second in the second division on Wednesday, while Union Berlin are at fourth-tier side Verl, who in the first round put out top-flight Augsburg, and Fortuna Dusseldorf visit third division Kaiserslautern on Tuesday.
The remaining tie on Wednesday sees fourth-tier Saarbruecken at home to struggling second division side Karlsruhe.