Werder Bremen fan Paul Schulze-Smidt assesses his team's season and looks ahead to Sunday's friendly game against Fulham.
First things first, for those Fulham fans making the trip to Bremen for Sunday’s game, what are the best things about visiting the Weser-Stadion?
The Weser-Stadion is a very special stadium in the Bundesliga because of its centrality within the city of Bremen. Right next to the river 'Weser', the stadium is within walking distance from the historic city centre and is surrounded by several pubs and restaurants. Apart from this, the stadium has got a friendly atmosphere with enthusiastic fans.
With the 2013/14 season on the horizon, what is the mood like amongst Werder’s fans – are you hopeful for the coming campaign?
After the last two seasons of disappointing results the club is in the middle of a period of change. The 14-year collaboration with coach Thomas Schaaf came to an end last season and former General Manager Klaus Allofs left as well. Robin Dutt is our new coach and Thomas Eichin is the General Manager, so everyone supporting Werder is quite curious about how things will turn out.
The team finished 14th in the Bundesliga last year – what was your assessment of the 2012/13 season?
Last season was kind of a horror movie for every Werder supporter. Everyone knew that the club would struggle as several good players left Werder before the season started. Furthermore, the new 4-2-3-1 formation had to be learnt by the team, which cured a couple of problems, but it has been a season to forget so it would be better to talk about the future.
Although this is a friendly fixture, what type of game do you anticipate against Fulham?
It is always a highlight to see matches between English and German teams. The physical strength of both sides should guarantee an interesting battle. German fans are famous for getting behind their team.
What should Fulham fans expect to see and hear from the home supporters on Sunday?
As the results of the last friendly matches have not been what we expected, the Fulham fans will see and hear unconditional support from our fans. The match will be part of the yearly event 'Day of the Fans' which will mean that there will be a very special atmosphere.
Who are Bremen’s players to watch?
This is a question we are also asking ourselves. Striker Nils Petersen who came on loan last season, and has now been transferred from Bayern Munich, is definitely our great hope for the next season. Aaron Hunt is one of our best creative midfielders and also is definitely a player to watch as he has an English mother.
Sascha Riether, a player you will know well, had a fantastic first season with Fulham and was one of the best right-backs in the Premier League. Was his form recognised back home?
Personally, I recognised his strong development in the Barclays Premier League. In Germany I always saw him as a reliable, but only moderate defender. Obviously his decision to move to Fulham has been the best for his future and he has really impressed.
Dimitar Berbatov is no stranger to German football having spent time with Bayer Leverkusen, will he be one of the main threats to the Bremen defence?
Berbatov is very dangerous and an outstanding striker. I was happy to see him succeed in England and I think every club would be happy to have a striker like him.
And which other Fulham players are you looking forward to watching?
Bryan Ruiz is another strong offensive player who I am looking forward to see on the pitch. From the Bundesliga we also know Ashkan Dejagah when he was playing for VfL Wolfsburg. He is a fast and a passionate player who gives everything for his team. I personally also like the centre-back pairing of Brede Hangeland and Fernando Amorebieta.
During the 2009/10 season Fulham knocked out both Wolfsburg and Hamburg to reach the Final of the UEFA Europa League. Is it fair to say that Fulham’s reputation in Germany grew as a result?
With this success back in 2009/10 of course Fulham reached a new position in the German mindset. As a real Werder supporter, I was happy to see Hamburg losing against Fulham and it was when I started to follow them more. I had bought two tickets for the final in Hamburg to see Werder just before we lost against Valencia, but I got the chance to see you guys against Atlético Madrid even if the result wasn’t what you wanted.
Aside from the football, what else should Fulham fans look out for during their visit to Bremen?
Go to see the historic centre (including the 'Schnoor'), walk to the district 'Schlachte' for a beer and enjoy a 10 minute walk along the river to the stadium. You will enjoy it!
During our previous trips to Germany, the currywursts went down well amongst fans. Can you recommend any food or drink to try out at the game?
The 'Bratwurst' in the Weser-Stadion has been given an award as it is the best in the Bundesliga. Do not forget to drink enough water, the game is going to get hot! And I think it will end 3-2!