With Werder Bremen and Panathinaikos FC both awaiting their first UEFA Champions League win this term, the message from the camps ahead of their Weserstadion meeting is unequivocal – "we need to start winning".
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With Werder Bremen and Panathinaikos FC both awaiting their first UEFA Champions League victory this term, the message from the rival camps ahead of their Group B meeting is unequivocal – a point is not enough.
As the two clubs enter the second half of the group stage, neither team's campaign has yet sparked into life. Previously point-less, Henk ten Cate's Panathinaikos appeared on course for a welcome win in the reverse fixture in Athens a fortnight ago, only for Hugo Almeida's 83rd-minute strike to earn Bremen a third draw in three outings. Another share of the spoils will not be good enough for home coach Thomas Schaaf at the Weserstadion on Tuesday, however. "Draws will not get you into the next round of this competition," he warned. "Our aim is to progress and to do that we need to start winning. At least we don't have to rely on anybody except ourselves."
Panathinaikos also remain in control of their own destiny and, though a return of one point from three games is well below expectations, Ten Cate believes his side are close to turning the corner. "We were the better team two weeks ago and should have taken all three points," said the Dutchman, whose charges edged a 2-1 victory at Panionios GSS on Saturday despite playing the last 25 minutes with ten men. "We know we can trouble Bremen and hopefully the luck that eluded us in Athens will be on our side this time. We need to win and I'm optimistic we can do so."
Ten Cate will be shorn of attack-minded Austria midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz because of tendinitis, yet it is in defence that his squad could have most to worry about. The Greek outfit have conceded seven goals in three UEFA Champions League outings this season, and come up against opponents who on Saturday scored five times for the fourth occasion this term – beating Hertha BSC Berlin 5-1. Not that Ten Cate is unduly worried. "We ran the last game and forced Bremen to do most of the defending," he said. "Furthermore, Bremen have conceded a lot of goals [more than any other team in the Bundesliga, with 23 shipped in eleven matches] so I'm not worrying about how to defend against them."
Ten Cate concedes that Bremen will pose a threat from set-pieces, so Panathinaikos will endeavour to keep the German side "as far from goal as possible". Boubacar Sanogo's failure to win the race to overcome a neck injury could reduce the hosts' aerial threat, while Werder are already bereft of one of their chief dead-ball providers, Torsten Frings, though suspension. Either Jurica Vranješ or, more likely, Aaron Hunt will take his place in left midfield, yet Schaaf is more interested in getting his players in the right frame of mind. "Winning 5-1 can be dangerous because sometimes players fall into the trap of thinking they can afford to ease off and everything will still work out," said the 47-year-old. "Instead, we need to remember how we beat Hertha and use that against Panathinaikos."