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Champions have cause for concern

Published: Wednesday 29 September 2004, 12.00CET
Werder Bremen and Valencia CF, champions of Germany and Spain, have headaches ahead of their meeting.

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Published: Wednesday 29 September 2004, 12.00CET

Champions have cause for concern

Werder Bremen and Valencia CF, champions of Germany and Spain, have headaches ahead of their meeting.

By Richie Denning in Bremen

Werder Bremen welcome the UEFA Champions League to the Weserstadion on Wednesday night for the first time in a decade but the Bundesliga title-holders face a tough evening against their counterparts from Spain, Valencia CF.

Points needed
Bremen began their Group G campaign with a 2-0 defeat at FC Internazionale Milano while visitors Valencia won by the same scoreline against RSC Anderlecht. The German side's coach, Thomas Schaaf, knows his side must try and get some points on the board before back-to-back games against Anderlecht, but he has injury worries to contend with.

Baumann blow
Chief among them is the loss of influential captain Frank Baumann as he has failed to recover from a calf injury he suffered on Matchday 1. Schaaf said the match had come too early for the German international but hoped he would be able to play a part in the remainder of the group stage. Also out of the tie is the suspended Valérien Ismael, following his dismissal at the San Siro.

Charisteas boost
The German representatives have several other players missing through injury, namely Ümit Davala, Gustavo Nery, Daniel Jensen and Kristián Lisztes. There was good news for Schaaf at the weekend, however, when Greek international striker Angelos Charisteas recovered from an ear problem to score as a substitute in Saturday's 4-1 league victory at VfL Bochum 1848.

'Strong side'
Schaaf said: "Due to the extent of our injury worries, variation and improvisation will be the key to success. I believe in my team. We have proved in the Bundesliga that we are a strong side, I know that the team want to prove their worth, regardless of who is in the starting lineup. Our omissions through injury must be compensated by passion and effort."

Formation choice
Schaaf added that he was keeping his options open as to whether or not he will stick to his usual 4-4-2 system. He is also mindful of the threat posed by Valencia, claiming: "They are not only a team full of top names, but a side who combine and play very well together." The Spanish side will lack for support though, with only 83 of their fans making the trip to north Germany.

Going well
Even if they struggle to find friendly faces in the crowd, Valencia will be full of confidence having made an excellent start to their domestic season. A 2-0 home win against Real Racing Club Santander has seen them become co-leaders with FC Barcelona at the top of the Primera División. A repeat of the performance against Anderlecht would certainly suit Claudio Ranieri, but he has warned his players about the challenge ahead. "The champions of Germany command respect," he said.

Several missing
Ranieri also has injury worries including a serious hamstring problem for Gonzalo De Los Santos, Mista's twisted ankle and Stefano Fiore's troublesome calf. Also sidelined are Ludovic Butelle, Roberto Ayala, Fabio Aurelio, Pablo Aimar and Francisco Rufete. As such, Ranieri is aware that his side's good run could come to an end at any time. "That kind of consistency is very hard to maintain," he added.

Last updated: 29/09/04 18.21CET