When Werder Bremen striker Miroslav Klose injured his shoulder in a heavy landing on the freezing turf of FC St. Pauli's Millerntor stadium he feared his chances of facing Juventus in the UEFA Champions League were gone. However, three weeks on from that bruising German Cup defeat, the Germany international is recovered and raring to go. "I feel absolutely fine," said Klose. "I'm no longer feeling any pain and I'm ready to play, if the coach wants to select me."
It would be difficult to find a reason not to pick Klose. Despite enforced absences he has still managed 16 goals in just 14 Bundesliga games this term and has also scored three UEFA Champions League goals. Match fitness could prove a problem but as the tall centre-forward himself said: "There's only one way to find out. I feel good and whether or not I last 85 minutes or 90 remains to be seen."
Klose knows very well that facing the runaway leaders of Serie A will be a far from easy proposition, particularly given the nature of Fabio Capello's well-drilled defence, which has conceded just 17 goals so far in the Italian top-flight. But the second-highest goalscorer at the last FIFA World Cup finals sees this as a challenge. "Juve are a great team," said Klose. "They are good at the back and they are good going forward but I'm hopeful of scoring tomorrow.
"Everyone is saying that Juventus are favourites and Juventus are going to win," he added. "They are a very good side, for sure, but for us this is a challenge. It is our chance to show that they are not superior to us. We are playing at home and we will see. There's no question that it will be difficult but we have a great attack."
The statistics certainly bear out the Germany international's case. Not only has Klose scored more than all of his Bundesliga peers, he and strike partner Ivan Klasnić are the league leaders in combined goals and assists with 16 goals and four assists and ten and six, respectively. Johan Micoud is a not-so-distant fourth with five goals and ten assists, so the 27-year-old's confidence is not misplaced. Neither is his self-belief; behind the polite and taciturn façade lurks a driven individual who is relishing the opportunity to better himself.
Champions League ambition
"This is why I came here," said the former 1. FC Kaiserslautern target man. "I changed clubs and came to Bremen specifically to play in the UEFA Champions League. It is very important. This is the highest level and it was essential for me to play in this tournament for my personal development as a player. I would obviously love to score but it doesn't matter if I don't. What's more important is the result. If I can't help out with goals then hopefully I can put my physical strength to use."
Klose will also be hoping to cast aside the demons of last season when, at this same stage, Bremen's UEFA Champions League dream unravelled spectacularly with a 10-2 aggregate defeat against Olympique Lyonnais. Never one to shirk a challenge, though, Klose was hoping to meet the Ligue 1 side again this time around to settle the score. "It's a shame we didn't draw Lyon," he said. "I would have loved to have played them again. But however good Juve are, it won't be the same sort of scoreline as you saw against Lyon. We've learned from that."
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