Schaaf returns to keep Bremen in Bundesliga as Kohfeldt is axed

By John Bagratuni, dpa

Werder Bremen have released coach Florian Kohfeldt and turned to their former long-time helmsman Thomas Schaaf as caretaker to save them from Bundesliga relegation on the final matchday or in a possible play-off tie.

Bremen made the announcement on Sunday in the wake of a 2-0 defeat at Augsburg which saw them drop to third-last in the play-off spot.

Kohfeldt was in charge since 2017 and former top side Bremen needed a play-off last season to stay in the top flight. He was questioned several times since season and a winless run of nine games with eight defeats sealed his fate.

Former Bremen player Schaaf coached the team 1999-2013, winning the Bundesliga and German Cup double in 2004 and two more German Cups. The 60-year-old who has been at the club for almost five decades is now the technical director.

“Unfortunately after the game in Augsburg we were no longer convinced that we would be able to stay up with Florian Kohfeldt,” managing director Frank Baumann said.

Schaaf is now to act as caretaker and prepare the team for the final game on Saturday against Borussia Moenchengladbach, and possible play-offs May 26 and 29.

“We are happy that Thomas is taking on this task in such a precarious situation for the club. We hope that he can bring his experience to the table and get the players ready for the last game of the season,” Baumann said.

Said Schaaf: “Of course this is a huge challenge, but we still have every opportunity to stay in the league. We have little time, but we will do everything we can to go into the game with passion, confidence and belief in our own strength and to be successful in the end.”

Bremen are one point above second-last Cologne in the direct drop spot but also only one behind currently safe Arminia Bielefeld. Victory against Gladbach would see them assured of at least the play-off spot.

Cologne end the season against relegated bottom side Schalke while Bielefeld are at mid-table Stuttgart in the May 22 finale.

They are the last three teams in the dogfight after Hertha Berlin, Augsburg and Mainz are assured of safety since Saturday.

Bremen, who are in financial trouble owing to the coronavirus pandemic, had stuck with the 38-year-old Kohfeldt for a very long time while Cologne and Bielefeld made changes at the helm much earlier in their efforts to avoid the drop.

Kohfeldt was defiant after Saturday’s game, saying he was convinced the team would win the last game but management finally decided to act against him.

“We are still convinced that Florian Kohfeldt is an excellent coach, but we agreed to make another change now in order to stay in the top flight. We thank Florian for everything he has done for Werder,” Baumann said.

Bremen, four-time Bundesliga champions and former European Cup Winners’ Cup champions, have only been relegated once from the Bundesliga, in 1980. They returned a year later and are the club with the most matches in the top flight.

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