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Werder Bremen's Brazilian defender Naldo believes fans at Weserstadion will see two teams worthy of playing in the UEFA Europa League final on Thursday, but if he succeeds in imposing his tactical plan then Valencia CF will not even make the last eight.
The tie is nicely poised at 1-1 and Naldo is absolutely clear the efforts Bremen put in at the Mestalla Stadium last week will be required again in the second leg of this round of 32 tie. "Bremen playing Valencia is like the final before the final because both sides have the quality to get to Hamburg in May," the 27-year-old told UEFA.com.
"So when we went out in the first game we knew we were facing an excellent side which competes at the level of Barcelona and Real Madrid. What we did well was neutralise their strongest points – Bremen played well in what was an excellent match.
"I know perhaps they missed a couple of chances, but it was a good display by us and we will attempt to replicate our success in closing down their strongest components then I think we can win.
"If you face players like [David] Villa, [David] Silva and [Juan] Mata you cannot leave them any space to work in. Our grand objective is to win this trophy because it was a blow to lose the final last season. However when we finished the first game in Valencia we were reminding ourselves we are not in the quarter-finals yet. We still need to concentrate."
Even though Bremen have a good record at home against Spanish clubs, winning five and drawing three of ten meetings, and defeated Athletic Club 3-1 in the group stage this season, there may be cause for Naldo's words of caution. Midfielder Tim Borowski agrees with his team-mate that the match should be a good deal more comfortable than it currently is.
"We had three or four 100% chances to score and we cannot be fully pleased with the second-half display in Spain," he said. "We thought we would create chances, Valencia were a man down because of the red card and we didn't score as many as we could have done, but I'm optimistic.
"Valencia will be missing players [the suspended Éver Banega and Pablo Hernández], we have a great mix of youth and experience and we proved in the first tie we are capable of standing up to Valencia even when they have a full side. We are in a good position."
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