By Derek Wilson, dpa
Defeat at Mainz has left fans of Werder Bremen bracing themselves for demotion from the top-flight after an unbroken streak of 39 years.
Berlin (dpa) – The time of Werder Bremen being league winners, cup finalists and Champions League regulars is over and after Saturday’s loss at Mainz, their continued presence in the Bundesliga could well be measured in days.
“The disappointment will last for a few more days but we have to pick ourselves up, and we definitely won’t give up,” said sporting director Frank Baumann.
“That’s out of the question. We will go into the last game with everything we have to pull off a miracle.”
The facts speak for themselves and no one in Bremen will like what they say. Relegation, for just the second-time ever after 1980, is looming large.
After 33 games, second bottom Werder have accrued only 28 points and have a goal difference of minus-32. Fortuna Dusseldorf in the play-off place above are the only side Bremen can hope to catch next Saturday; they have 30 points and a better goal difference of minus-28.
Should Dusseldorf win at Union Berlin in their last game, Bremen will be relegated regardless of how they fare at home to Cologne. A win would save Bremen if Fortuna lose while should Dusseldorf draw, a four-goal Werder victory is needed to reach the play-off.
“It’s now very difficult for us to avoid relegation,” admitted coach Florian Kohfeldt. “But we all owe it to the club to fight until the end, as long as it is still possible.”
There are short and long-term answers to the inevitable question of how did come to this for the four-time Bundesliga champions.
From their last title win in 2004 to 2011, Bremen spent only one season out of the money-spinning Champions League. But without that cash to reinvest, bigger clubs pulled away financially while the Bundesliga’s ever improving television deals allowed smaller sides to close the gap.
There have been previous flirts with relegation, most notably in 2016 when they entered the final day in the bottom three only to escape with a late victory over Eintracht Frankfurt.
Coaches have come and gone, unable to change the downward trend despite occasional moments of hope.
Kohfeldt first rescued the team in 2017 and even had them on the brink of Europe last term. But the decision to back rather than sack the 37-year-old this season is now looking costly, at least in the short-term.
Injuries to key players haven’t helped with the return of Nicolas Fuelkrug from a long absence adding some desperately needed creativity.
Bremen have picked up a 22 points away from home, a wholly respectable eighth-best in the league.
In front of their owns fans, however – and then in front of their own empty stands following the coronavirus break – has been a different story.
Only one win has been recorded in 16 games with visiting goalkeepers to the Weser Stadium picking the ball out of the net just nine times.
“It was possible for us to win here,” said Kohfeldt in Mainz. “We had chances and enough opportunities to prevent them from scoring. We didn’t manage to do that.”
Yuya Osako’s second half goal cut a 2-0 deficit but in truth Bremen never looked like finding the equalizer that would boost their survival hopes.
Now they have one last chance against an out of form Cologne – but Union Berlin, safe in their maiden Bundesliga season, are also not the hardest opponents on paper for Fortuna.
“It will be difficult, but we have to win,” said captain Niclas Moisander. “All that matters is that we finally win again at home and try to score as many goals as possible. Then we will see how Dusseldorf do.”