BERLIN (AFP) – Two of the biggest and most successful sides in German football history return to the Bundesliga this weekend with fallen giants Werder Bremen and Schalke back in the top flight after a season in the second tier.
Bremen have won four Bundesliga titles, most recently in 2004, and six German Cups, the last in 2009.
Schalke have won the German league seven times, the most recent in 1958, and are five-time German Cup winners, last lifting the trophy in 2011.
“Pre-season is over and now it’s time to deliver,” Schalke’s new coach Frank Kramer warned ahead of their opening fixture against Cologne on Sunday.
Bremen open at home against Wolfsburg today with champions Bayern Munich kicking off the campaign at Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt.
While Schalke and Bremen only had to wait one season to return, they have adopted contrasting approaches as they seek to stay at the top table.
Schalke have brought in a dozen new players to the squad which won the second division title while Bremen have opted to stick with the core of the side that won automatic promotion with second place.
Werder will also have a British flavour with England under-21 defender Lee Buchanan arriving from Derby and Scotsman Oliver Burke, who spent a season in the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig in 2016-17.
Defenders Niklas Stark and Amos Pieper should help Bremen improve their stability at the back.
Most importantly for the ‘Green and Whites’, they held onto Ole Werner, 34, one of Germany’s hottest coaching prospects.
Werder were languishing in 10th place last season when manager Markus Anfang was forced to step down after it emerged he had shown the club fake COVID vaccination certificates.
Werner took charge and was able to right the ship, with Bremen winning 14 of their remaining 20 games to rocket to the top of the table, before finishing the year in second.