Influential Werder Bremen playmaker Diego has backed his team-mates to win their UEFA Cup final against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, despite his absence through suspension.
The 24-year-old Brazilian international picked up a booking in Werder's semi-final victory over domestic rivals Hamburg that ruled him out of the decider in Istanbul, but says his team can cope without him. "My team-mates will win the UEFA Cup, without me and maybe also a little bit for me," said the former Porto star, who is in talks with Italian giants Juventus over a big-money transfer for next season.
The likelihood that Diego will be playing his football in Serie A next term has turned attention towards his potential successor at Werder, Mesut Ozil. The 20-year-old midfielder of Turkish descent made his debut for Germany in February and team-mate Torsten Frings feels he can handle the club's expectations.
"All eyes will be on him, but he can make the difference on his own, as he's shown this season when he's really progressed," said Frings. "But we mustn't overwhelm a 20-year-old player with too much pressure. We must all help him."
Ozil himself, meanwhile, sees no reason why he cannot step into the shoes of his feted colleague. "The absence of Diego is a big blow, but we've already won without him, and I know what I'm capable of."
Diego may be unavailable, but Shakhtar have four exciting Brazilian talents of their own in the shape of Fernandinho, Ilsinho, Jadson and Adriano. "I'm sure it will be a very interesting final between two very different teams," said Shakhtar's Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu, before appearing to disparage the qualities of a Werder team frequently lauded as one of the most attractive footballing sides in the Bundesliga.
"Bremen are direct, they're very physical with some very strong players," he said. "Our game is more technical and relies on the individual qualities of our players. They will try to provoke us to commit fouls and give away free-kicks."