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Werder Bremen defender Per Mertesacker says he and his colleagues have no qualms about the absence of goalkeeper Tim Wiese for Wednesday's UEFA Champions League Group B match at Panathinaikos FC.
Thomas Schaaf's Bundesliga side have travelled to Athens without Wiese after the No1 ruptured a left thigh muscle in training on Monday. That means a start for Christian Vander, who twice deputised for Wiese in home group games last season – a 3-2 victory against Real Madrid CF but also a 3-1 loss to another Greek team, Olympiacos CFP – although this time Vander will have to deal with an expected 55,000 capacity crowd at the OACA Spiros Louis stadium. Nonetheless, Mertesacker said: "We have a strong squad and have never had a problem when Tim has been missing. We have proved we can cope without him. We have another very good goalkeeper in Christian Vander and have absolute confidence in him."
After two draws so far, 0-0 at home to Anorthosis Famagusta and 1-1 at FC Internazionale Milano, Bremen are looking to stake their claim for a qualifying spot against a Panathinaikos side still to get off the mark following defeats by the same opponents. Mertesacker accepts the hosts will be highly motivated to put points on the board but hopes Bremen can continue the good form shown against Inter. "We must be calm and concentrated going into this match," the German international said. "It's going to be a big challenge for us. We must keep the Panathinaikos attack as far as possible from our goal and minimise any threat. Every match has its own characteristics but we hope to produce the same kind of display we gave against Inter. I believe if we do that we can get the required result."
Mertesacker played both games as Germany claimed 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying wins against Russia and Wales last week. After an extended break in the wake of helping his country to the UEFA EURO 2008™ final, the imposing 24-year-old feels he is getting back to his best, having returned from injury in mid-September. "It was a tough start to the season but after playing in both Germany's games I believe I am at the level I want," he said. "I'm feeling fitter and stronger with every match and I can see this in my performances." Mertesacker refused to be drawn, however, on Bremen's most recent visit to Greece – the 3-0 reverse at Olympiacos on Matchday 6 last term which ended their knockout hopes. "This only brings bad thoughts," he added. "It was a bad night and we have to forget it. This is a different game, a new season in the competition."
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