By Alois Urban and Mark Bennett
Werder Bremen are confident they can beat Group G leaders FC Internazionale Milano on Wednesday to secure their place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.
Bremen have won all three of their matches since losing 2-0 at Inter on Matchday 1 to go second, and a fourth victory at a sell-out Weserstadion would see both the German champions and Inter through to the next round. Both sides will also qualify should Valencia CF fail to defeat RSC Anderlecht.
Bremen's hopes are boosted by the absence of Inter striker Adriano, who is suspended following his dismissal in the goalless draw with Valencia on Matchday 4. The Brazilian scored both goals in Inter's 2-0 victory when these two met in September. "Adriano is most definitely the best player Inter have," Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf said. "His absence weakens Inter and that is an advantage for us."
But with Christian Vieri restored to the Inter side after sitting out the Valencia game, Schaaf insisted complacency would not affect his team's performance. "Their other strikers have a lot of quality and there's no reason whatsoever to believe we will make the mistake of underestimating any of them," he said.
Schaaf is likely to stick with the same attack-minded approach that earned home wins against Valencia and Anderlecht. Miroslav Klose has recovered from a slight injury picked up on international duty with Germany last week and should start up front with the prolific Ivan Klasnic. The pair have shared seven goals between them in the Champions League this term, with Klasnic collecting a hat-trick in the 5-1 defeat of Anderlecht three weeks ago.
Schaaf, however, believes there is still room for improvement and has called on his players to tighten up at the back after conceding at least a goal a game in Group G so far. "Inter had far too many chances when we played at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium and we will have to make sure that doesn't happen again," he said.
Inter are already assured of a place in the next round, but Schaaf is not expecting Roberto Mancini to field a weakened team on Wednesday. "I don't think they are treating the game lightly because I am absolutely sure they will want to hang on to first place in the group," he said. "I definitely don't think it will be easy."
Mancini concurred, insisting his side were in Bremen to win. "Bremen have a very good team and we definitely haven't come here just to see the sights," he said. "I want to see my players win the match and the group."
Mancini could partner Alvaro Recoba up front with Vieri, although the 31-year-old Italian international has scored just once in seven outings in an injury-marred season. "I know Vieri can get the job done and he has my complete backing," Mancini said. "He has recovered from a few injury problems, is looking fit again and as a result his form is improving."
Mancini's greater concern may be at the back, and defender Javier Zanetti confirmed he is not expecting an easy ride. "We know it will be a tough game because Bremen made life very difficult for us in Milan," he said. "They have some outstanding individuals in [Johan] Micoud, Klasnic and Klose. We'll have to stop those three players to have any chance of winning the match."
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