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Werder Bremen can sew up top spot in Group L against CD Nacional, but despite boasting a 21-game unbeaten run and an unblemished home record in Europe this season, coach Thomas Schaaf is wary of visitors who have "evolved" since their last meeting.
Schaaf has already guided Bremen to the last 32 with two games to spare and is keen to maintain the momentum which has also lifted the club to second in the Bundesliga. "Preparations for this match are the same as for any other as we're facing strong opponents," he said, pledging that his already-qualified side would be fully focused. "We want to play our own game, dominate the match and deny the opposition as much as possible."
The German club overcame Nacional on Matchday 1 with a 3-2 win in Funchal. Nothing less than victory will keep the Portuguese club's hopes of progression alive and Schaaf is cautious of a side he feels has improved since September. "They will try to play it tight at the back and hit us on the counterattack," he predicted. "They will try everything to win – after all, it's their last chance. Nacional have evolved since the first match, they have several young players who have come on, which is documented by their improvement in the Portuguese Liga."
Bremen have not lost in any competition since 8 August and victory over Nacional will seal first place in the section should Athletic Club fail to overcome FK Austria Wien in the group's other game. Hugo Almeida, for one, is relishing the chance to take on a team from his homeland, but is equally interested in maintaining Bremen's excellent form. "It's always special to play against a Portuguese side," the 25-year-old said, "but that's not what it is about now. It would be nice if a team from Portugal made it through, but at Werder we want to win every game."
Nacional assistant coach José Augusto will lead the Madeira side in the absence of Manuel Machado, who is in hospital following an operation on Friday. Augusto says his team have not lost hope in Group L. "The first game [against Werder] showed we are no pushovers. If this team had a little bit more experience it could have been a different result. We will try to focus on our game first and then see what is possible."
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