Weserstadion - Werder Bremen

‘Underwhelming’ as a description doesn’t really do total justice to our bumpy start to the season. Good performances have been outnumbered by iffy ones where we’ve looked one-paced (slow), toothless, shaky at the back and generally lethargic. Injuries, internationals and the introduction of new faces are all good reasons to explain away the malaise but now is not the time for excuses, it’s time to just get on with it.

Even with half a team missing, one glance at our squad shows that we can go to Bremen confident of getting a result, but at the risk of stating the obvious, bringing the best out of that squad is key and with his team selection and tactics, it’s time for Harry once more to earn his wages.

Given the other strikers form and fitness, Crouch is the only real candidate to start up front and Redknapp will probably have to gamble by risking an untried combination in slotting Van der Vaart in behind him. On paper this pairing with the support of Bale on the left has a good chance of getting us goals and judging by the way the defence has been playing, we might need them.

The noises are that Modric is unlikely to start meaning a midfield of anything other than Lennon, Big Tom, Palacios and Bale would be a surprise. Redknapp has options at centre back but he does like Kaboul so I’d say he was most likely to partner King, especially given Gallas’s obvious rustiness on Saturday.

Bremen have their own injury problems, both of their first choice centre backs are reported to be out. Their replacements will be intent on dealing with the height of Crouch, hopefully leaving more space for Bale and VdV. The Germans obviously have something about them given their late comeback against Sampdoria in the last round and no doubt the 50,000 Weserstadion will be rocking. Well known players include Torsten Frings, the injured Mertesacker, former Chelski striker Pizarro and Gallas’s ex-Gooner mate Silvestre. Ozil has buggered off to Spain but Redknapp has identified Marko Marin as a possible danger man in his place.

Like us the Germans have started their domestic season slowly with a win, a loss and a draw, though the draw was at Bayern Munich last weekend.

In the games that mattered at the end of last season it was the big players that turned up and made the difference. King, Bale, Crouch, Modric, Huddlestone, Dawson and Gomes all had storming climaxes to the campaign. Despite the absence of some of these, we need more of the same tonight. After all the anticipation and build up, the game in Switzerland looked for a while like it was going to be a very harsh reality check. A nerveless committed performance from all eleven players tonight no matter who they are should see us get a draw at least without a similar shock to the system.


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