Now the protracted transfer saga is behind them. With Özil's departure to the Madrid club a gigantic hole is to be filled in Bremen's starting eleven. "It is, of course, a shame that Mesut has left us. He was very important to the team, especially in the last couple of seasons. But we have to move on now and leave him behind us", said defensive chief Per Mertesacker.
Despite the midfielder's departure his former team was able to record a 3:1 victory over Sampdoria in the first leg of qualifying, and so have one leg in the group stage. It appeared to be one of those evenings where no clear cut chances on goal would appear, until Portuguese striker Hugo Almeida's header struck the crossbar.
Then, in the 51st minute, Clemens Fritz broke the deadlock with a rasping left-footed shot - his weaker foot - to put Bremen into the lead. Quick goals in succession from Frings (penalty) and Claudio Pizarro put the leg to bed, but Giampaolo Pazzini reduced arrears in the 90th minute after his teammate Stefano Lucchini was sent off for his second bookable offence earlier.
"I am certain that we will score a goal in the away leg. But it is frustrating that we conceded a goal when we had a one-man advantage", said Allofs. Manager Thomas Schaaf added: "We took our time to get into the game, but pushed on in the second half - thank God we got the goals."
Before Wednesday's clash Bremen hadn't been in top form in pre-season. They were thrashed 5:1 away to Premier League side FC Fulham in a friendly, and were hardly convincing in their DFB Pokal game against Rot Weiss Ahlen. Indeed eccentric new signing Marko Arnautovic has already felt the wrath of boss Schaaf; he was forced to train on his own during their Austrian training camp in Bad Waltersdorf following a disagreement.
The six million pounds man from FC Twente, who had previously been loaned out at Inter Milan, argued with a training ground refereeing decision from Schaaf and kicked the ball away. Arnautovic was told to do press-ups and then sent into isolation to train. "After his press-ups he still hadn't quite understood his punishment. Therefore it was necessary to give him a bit of time to slow down his pulse and clear his mind", explained Schaaf about the punishment.
Arnautovic doesn't appear to have integrated well into the team as of yet. Captain Torsten Frings answered the signing's critics. "Marko is technically good and quick, but he needs to change one or two things about himself to settle in Bremen", said Frings about his teammate. "He needs to show less arrogance, as that won't be accepted at Bremen." It hasn't been a good honeymoon period for the new Austrian signing at the Weserstadion.