New-found stability on the Weser

After a mediocre first half of the season, SV Werder Bremen are flourishing in the new year and have already picked up as many points as in the first 17 matches. That is in large part down to their stabilised defence – although some key players are missing. The clash with TSG Hoffenheim in Sinsheim on Sunday (17:30 CET / Live Ticker at will also determine which of the two teams keeps in touch with the European places.

SV Werder Bremen have taken 13 out of a possible 18 points in the first six games in the second half-season – only Bayer 04 Leverkusen have fared better in this timeframe. The fact Ole Werner's team have only dropped points in their home games against promoted Heidenheim (2-1 loss) and Darmstadt (1-1) during this period has been something of a blow. More points would have put the club in a better position in the race to finish the campaign in the European places.

The strong second half-season has also been down to the stabilised defence – the record of only four goals conceded is the joint-lowest, with only leaders Leverkusen having let in so few goals. What makes that low number even more impressive is that the Northern Germans are without four centre-backs – Niklas Stark, Marco Friedl, Amos Pieper and Milos Veljkovic – due to injury.

The personnel situation may not be set to worsen ahead of the match on Sunday, but it could for the following week. Six players who are currently on four yellow cards are in danger of missing out on the game against Borussia Dortmund.

The successful start to the second half of the season has lifted Bremen up to eighth place, level on points with and only a goal behind TSG. Seventh place, which could qualify the occupant for Europe, is within touching distance for Ole Werner's team after some tough years in sporting terms.

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