Germany: Bundesliga
1 - 1
(0 - 0)
L. Melo (77), L. Melo (89)
M. Veljkovic (62), J. Stage (73)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Veljkovic insists depleted Werder defensive corps will be ready for Leverkusen

Last night's turbulent draw left SV Werder Bremen trainer Ole Werner with more personnel worries in central defense. Speaking to the DAZN microphones afterwards, goal-scorer Milos Veljkovic insisted that the Hanseaten would be able to keep matters competitive against league leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen next week. 

The revolving door of suspensions in SV Werder Bremen's central defensive corps continues to churn. Amid the nine bookings in last night's highly turbulent 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt, squad captain Marco Friedl picked up his fifth yellow card of the captain. The young skipper must sit out next week's fixture against soon-to-be-crowned league champions Bayer 04 Leverkusen. Defender Anthony Jung - sent off on a red in last week's loss to Wolfsburg - will also be unavailable due to a two-match-ban handed down by the DFB's disciplinary committee.

German youth international Amos Pieper was fit enough to start his first match last night since undergoing ankle surgery in late November, but had to exit proceedings early after Eintracht's Robin Koch inadvertently landed on the Pieper's injured ankle during an aerial duel early in the second half. SV trainer Ole Werner - speaking to the DAZN microphones after last night's draw - noted that the 26-year-old was "in a lot of pain". Pieper's one-time Germany U21 teammate Niklas Stark remains out with hip problems.

The latest round of losses leave Werner with only young Argentine Julian Malatini and Milos Veljkovic available as natural central defenders. Veljkovic scored in last night's draw, but also totally blew his marking assignment on Frankfurt's equalizer. Thirty-five-year-old veteran Christian Groß - who recently announced his retirement at the end of the season after some form struggles this year - stands as the presumptive nominee to round out Werner's back-three. Such an arrangement may not necessarily be a detriment against Bayer next week.

Veljkovic insisted the team would be up to the task. The three presumptive defensive starters have also done well on the scoresheet. The 28-year-old - capped 29 times for Serbia at the senior international level - has scored twice and registered one assist in 17 league appearances (15 starts) this season. Groß registered an assist while filling in along the defensive line late in a match-day seven encounter against Hoffenheim. Young Malatini scored his first Bundesliga goal within seconds of making his debut against Freiburg in round 19.

"We've shown throughout the season that when players have been injured or suspended, we have a good squad with players who can step in and do their job," Veljkovic noted in his post-match interview with DAZN, "Of course, things look a bit worse now because we're not getting the results. But we have to keep at it and play our brand of football."

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