Bremen and AZ await breakthrough

Werder Bremen will be wary of an AZ Alkmaar backlash as they look to improve on a 0-0 draw in the Netherlands in the first leg of their UEFA Cup quarter-final.

Werder Bremen will be wary of an AZ Alkmaar backlash as they look to improve on a 0-0 draw in the Netherlands in the first leg of their UEFA Cup quarter-final.

• AZ successfully defended their unbeaten European home record against Bremen, taking their tally to 30 games without a European home defeat, but the German side ended the Dutch hopefuls' record of having scored in all ten of their UEFA Cup games this season. AZ are no longer the competition's top scorers this season, with RCD Espanyol now two strikes ahead of them on 27.

• Prior to the first leg, the two sides had never met in European competition.

• The game in Germany will be AZ's 50th in the UEFA Cup.

• AZ reached the last 32 as the top side in UEFA Cup Group C. They overcame Fenerbahçe SK on away goals in the Round of 32, drawing 3-3 in Istanbul before recovering from going 2-0 down to secure a 2-2 draw in the Netherlands. AZ were 4-2 down after the first leg of their Round of 16 tie at Newcastle United FC but won 2-0 at home to progress on away goals.

• Bremen earned a UEFA Cup place after finishing third behind Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona in UEFA Champions League Group A. The 1992 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup winners then eliminated AFC Ajax, who lifted the UEFA Cup that year, winning 3-0 at the Weserstadion and losing 3-1 at the Amsterdam ArenA. They reached the quarter-finals with a 1-0 away victory and a 2-0 win at home against RC Celta de Vigo.

• AZ coach Louis van Gaal felt optimistic after the first leg, saying: "The players are more disappointed than I am, they felt they could have won it. I see this match as a step forward because we played with so much control against a top Bundesliga side. We didn't give much away and were dominant on the ball, and that is the trademark of a top European team. I'd already predicted that the first leg would be more difficult than the second."

• Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf said: "Both teams respected each other and didn't want to give away too much space. We tried to disrupt their approach play and succeeded in the first half. Both teams were aware how important a goal would have been. Now we have to play more attacking at home and try to advance."

• AZ have encountered German opposition once before, drawing the 2004/05 UEFA Cup Round of 32 first leg 0-0 at TSV Alemannia Aachen before going through with a 2-1 home success. They would reach the semi-finals.

• Bremen have been pitted against Dutch sides in four previous knockout ties and have an underwhelming record. In nine matches, including the first leg in Alkmaar, they have lost five and drawn three. Their only win came in this season's competition as they beat Ajax 3-0 at home.

• Shota Arveladze is AZ's highest scorer in the competition this season with seven goals to date.

• AZ have lost only one of their away games in this season's competition, 4-2 at Newcastle in the Round of 16. They have won two and drawn three of the others.

• Bremen have won their last four European home games since being held to a 1-1 draw by holders FC Barcelona in this season's UEFA Champions League group stage. Barça were the last team to beat Bremen at home in Europe, triumphing 2-0 at the Weserstadion in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League group stage.

• AZ have appeared in two previous European quarter-finals, both of them in the UEFA Cup. They beat KSC Lokeren OV 2-1 on aggregate in the 1980/81 competition en route to a final defeat against Ipswich Town FC, and overcame Villarreal CF in the 2004/05 quarter-final, losing out to Sporting Clube de Portugal in the last four. "Two years ago I saw AZ reach the semi-finals on television, now I am part of it myself," said striker Danny Koevermans.

• Bremen last appeared in a European quarter-final in the 1999/00 UEFA Cup, losing 6-2 on aggregate against Arsenal FC. This is the German club's fourth appearance in a UEFA Cup quarter-final.

• Van Gaal, who agreed a new contract with AZ until 2010 prior to the first leg, has led Barcelona and Ajax in 15 previous individual games against Bundesliga sides, winning ten, drawing three and losing just two. As a player with Sparta Rotterdam, he played six games against German sides, winning two, drawing two and losing two.

• Several Bremen players have intimate knowledge of Dutch football. Danish midfielder Daniel Jensen played 122 league games for SC Heerenveen between 1998 and 2003, while Finnish defender Petri Pasanen and Swedish forward Markus Rosenberg both had spells at Ajax. AZ's German-born midfielder Simon Cziommer spent three seasons in the Bundesliga with FC Schalke 04, but made just two league appearances between 2003 and 2006.

• The Ajax connection means former Amsterdam ArenA team-mates are likely to be on opposite sides. Pasanen was at Ajax between 2000 and 2004, playing alongside AZ's Joey Didulica, Tim De Cler, Arveladze and Nourdin Boukhari. Boukhari and Rosenberg were also Ajax team-mates in the 2005/06 season.

• A booking in the first leg means AZ's Grétar Steinsson is suspended for the match at the Weserstadion. Arveladze, Tim de Cler, Moussa Dembélé, Demy De Zeeuw and Barry Opdam all risk missing their next European game if they are shown a yellow card in Bremen.

• Bremen have six players under threat of suspension in the event of another caution: Tim Borowski, Torsten Frings, Clemens Fritz, Diego, Naldo and Pierre Wome.

• England, still represented in this season's competition by Tottenham Hotspur FC, and Germany, with Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Bremen flying the flag, have each won the UEFA Cup on six occasions. Italy are out in front as the most successful nation with nine triumphs, although they have no chance of adding to that haul this season.

• The winners will face RCD Espanyol or SL Benfica in the semi-finals, playing away on 26 April before staging the return on 3 May. The UEFA Cup final will be held in Glasgow, on 16 May.

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