A place in the final of the DFB Pokal will be at stake as RB Leipzig take on Werder Bremen at the Weserstadion on Friday.
Julian Nagelsmann’s appointment at FC Bayern caused shockwaves through the Bundesliga this week, with the German tactician set to join the Rekordmeister next season. However, he will have an opportunity to cap off his brilliant two years at RB Leipzig with a maiden trophy as his team takes on Werder Bremen on Friday, in the semifinal of the DFB Pokal.
The entire Leipzig setup will be hungry for the Cup, especially after missing out on the Bundesliga title to Bayern Munich, although they are still in it mathematically, thanks to Mainz’s shock win over the Bavarians last weekend.
Die Roten Bullen themselves secured a comfortable 2-0 victory over VfB Stuttgart to recover their winning momentum that could be vital when they take on Werder Bremen, who are going through a really tough time at the moment.
The northern giants slumped to their seventh successive defeat in the Bundesliga last weekend when they lost to Union Berlin. It drove them further into the relegation dogfight, with Die Grun Weissen even being tipped as the favourite to finish inside the bottom two, especially with both Koln and Mainz enjoying a good run.
It has put heaps of pressure on head coach Florian Kohfeldt, so this semifinal clash with Leipzig should serve as a welcome distraction. In many ways, the Bremen boss will be aware of the fact that an upset against the second-best team in Germany could go a long way in giving his side the much-needed confidence in their final three remaining matches in the Bundesliga.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their exciting semifinal contest in the DFB Pokal on Friday.
Team News & Tactics
🗣️ #Kohfeldt on the squad:
“Marco #Friedl won’t be in the squad, but the rest of the boys have a good chance of playing. They’ll only play if there’s no chance further injury though. I’m hoping that Ömer #Toprak will be fit. @lbittencourt32 will be back.”#werder #svwrbl pic.twitter.com/bhBgWK3aUp
— SV Werder Bremen EN (@werderbremen_en) April 29, 2021
Werder Bremen were all over their place defensively and need to appear much more solid if they are to prevail against RB Leipzig. There could be a huge shift in tactics, though, with Kohfeldt likely to employ a deep defensive line – a method that was well implemented by Leipzig’s recent opponents in Hoffenheim and Koln.
As far as the team selection is concerned, Christian Gross often shines in a low block and will hope to retain his place in the side, though partly helped by the injury of Marco Friedl. As such, we are expecting Gross to form the three-man backline alongside Milos Veljkovic and Niklas Moisander.
Kohfeldt might want to make one other change at the back, with Felix Agu coming in for Ludwig Augustinsson. The youngster has more dynamism and could potentially shine at left wing-back while Theodor Gebre-Selassie is pretty much a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank. It could well be the last cup appearance in a Bremen shirt for the long-serving defender this Friday.
In midfield, Gross’ presence at centre-back should pave the way for Maximilian Eggestein and Kevin Mohwald to continue their partnership in the double-pivot. Mohwald, in particular, is a surprise package for Bremen with his tendency to move forward and find himself in a scoring position.
As for the attacking department, Josh Sargent is going to play a key role, as his work rate, pace and ability to run in behind the backline will be required in the counter-attack oriented style of play. The same applies to a much more dynamic Milot Rashica while the Bremen attack should be spearheaded by Niclas Fullkrug, ahead of Davie Selke.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Pavlenka; Veljkovic, Gross, Moisander; Gebre Selassie, Eggestein, Möhwald, Agu; Sargent, Rashica; Füllkrug
Julian Nagelsmann will be blessed with the return of key player and club captain Marcel Sabitzer this week, after missing the last two matches. He is a shoo-in at midfield, alongside Kevin Kampl, as the duo look to control possession in the middle of the park, up against a sharp attacking Bremen side.
Amadou Haidara was the best player in Leipzig’s win over Stuttgart. He could be rewarded with another start against Bremen, in the right wing-back role ahead of Tyler Adams and Nordi Mukiele while Angelino is hoping to retain his place on the opposite flank.
Squad update for #SVWRBL 🗒️
▫ Poulsen should be available. With five goals, he is our top scorer in the competition this season.
▫ Captain Marcel #Sabitzer is also available.
▫ Lukas #Klostermann remains a doubt.
— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) April 29, 2021
These two are set to play a key role in providing the width going forward, in addition to creating sort of a midfield diamond that has proved to be quite help for RB Leipzig in dealing against low defensive blocks and a strong second line of press.
Christopher Nkunku and Dani Olmo could be even more important in the attacking midfield roles, as they look to position themselves in between the lines and make themselves viable passing options for the likes of Haidara, Kampl and Sabitzer. They will operate just behind Emil Forsberg, who will operate in the number nine role, ahead of Alexander Sorloth.
Defensively, the potential presence of Haidara might force Nagelsmann to go with Lukas Klostermann in the backline, ahead of Ibrahima Konate, but with the full-back being a doubt, the luck might be with the Frenchman, who has been linked with a move to Liverpool.
Marcel Halstenberg, meanwhile, won’t have such fitness issues and remains a favourite to start on the left-hand side, completing the three-man backline alongside Dayot Upamecano.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gulacsi; Konate, Upamecano, Halstenberg; Haidara, Sabitzer, Kampl, Angelino; Olmo, Nkunku; Forsberg
- RB Leipzig are the first Bundesliga team Bremen have faced in this season’s competition. They’ve got this far following victories over Carl-Zeiss Jena (fourth division), Hannover, Greuther Fürth and Jahn Regensburg (all Bundesliga 2).
- Bremen haven’t conceded a single goal in the DFB Cup this term, scoring eight in the process. Josh Sargent is the team’s top scorer with two of those.
- RB Leipzig forward Yussuf Poulsen is the competition’s leading scorer in 2020/21 with five goals.
- This is just the second time Leipzig have reached the last four of the DFB Cup; they previously finished as runners-up after losing to Bayern in the 2018/19 final.
- Julian Nagelsmann’s side, who are also yet to concede in the cup this season, have won seven of their 10 meetings with Bremen, including each of the last four.
Player to Watch
Emil Forsberg is certainly a player worth keeping an eye out on to when RB Leipzig lock horns with Werder Bremen. The Swede made quite an impact off the bench in the win over Stuttgart, and his clever movements, positional sense and technical prowess could be useful once again as Die Roten Bullen hope to dismantle the opposing defence.
It will be a vital game for Forsberg himself, as the playmaker has struggled with consistency following a blistering start to the campaign. From a tactical perspective, it will be particularly interesting to see how the 29-year-old offers that penetration without having the physical and aerial prowess of Alexander Sorloth or Yussuf Poulsen, up against a deep sitting Bremen backline.
Werder Bremen 0-2 RB Leipzig
RB Leipzig are the clear favourites in this one, especially with the return of Marcel Sabizer and even Konrad Laimer while Bremen, in contrast, are currently on a seven-game losing streak that is unlikely to improve anytime soon. Their coach Florian Kohfeldt will be under probation on Friday, with Thomas Schaaf being lined up as a replacement – making this game all the more difficult for the home side.