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Apprentice Özil prepares to fill master's boots

Torsten Frings says the UEFA Cup final provides Werder Bremen with the "chance to redeem ourselves" after a poor Bundesliga campaign, and in the absence of the suspended Diego the onus could fall on Mesut Özil.

Mesut Özil listens to Torsten Frings in Istanbul
Mesut Özil listens to Torsten Frings in Istanbul ©Getty Images

According to Torsten Frings the UEFA Cup final provides Werder Bremen with the "chance to redeem ourselves" after a hugely disappointing Bundesliga campaign, but much could depend on whether Mesut Özil manages to repeat the Diego impersonation that earned the German side their place in this competition.

Diego loss
As the celebrations petered out after Bremen's remarkable semi-final comeback against Hanseatic rivals Hamburger SV a fortnight ago a stark question remained: how could they have done it without Diego? The Brazilian playmaker is the heartbeat of Thomas Schaaf's side: dictating the pace, providing the guile and, as he showed against Hamburg, helping conjure up the unlikely. A first-half yellow card in the second leg means he will play no part against FC Shakhtar Donetsk in Istanbul, a cause of consternation among Grün-Weissen fans, but the team believe they have a ready-made replacement in Özil. "It may depend on Mesut," said Frings, with Schaaf adding: "I would rather have had Diego and Mesut harmonising together. Now I hope that Mesut can crown his excellent season with this game."

Inter memories
The 20-year-old has done it before. In December Bremen's European ambitions looked to be going the way of their Bundesliga hopes – they will finish tenth this term – before an impressive 2-1 victory against FC Internazionale Milano in their final UEFA Champions League game ensured they pipped Anorthosis Famagusta FC to a UEFA Cup spot. All without a suspended Diego. In his absence Özil thrived, playing a part in both goals and Bremen were on their way; five months later and the German international is prepared to harbour the burden of attacking instigator again, in the country of his parents' birth. "I have family and friends living here," he said. "I will meet them all afterwards to eat together but first we have the important matter of the match and we have to win it; we want to take the trophy back with us."

That is a sentiment backed up by Frings, who is targeting a haul of silverware over the next fortnight as Bremen will meet Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the German Cup final on 30 May. "We've been given the chance to save our season with two finals and a trophy or two and suddenly you're successful; all else is forgotten. Obviously we're not happy with our Bundesliga performances but now we have a chance to redeem ourselves," said the midfielder, who believes the team has the strength in depth to cope without Diego, as well as Hugo Almeida (banned) and Per Mertesacker (injured). "We will miss them because they're important players but we want to take the trophy back with them – we're also good without them." How good may depend on Özil.