BERLIN, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Pre-season favourites Werder Bremen and Hamburg SV will try to get their woeful Bundesliga campaigns on track in Saturday's derby showdown as they look to find some form before next week's Champions League matches.
Bremen and Hamburg were expected to battle for the title but are instead struggline in ninth and 15th place respectively after four matches. Bremen, who have six points, have lost their last two matches to VfB Stuttgart and Schalke 04.
Hamburg, winless this season after opening with three draws, lost to Borussia Dortmund last week. Although it is still early in the season, Hamburg desperately need to beat their northern German rivals to avoid losing contact with the top sides.
Hertha Berlin, who lead the table for the first time since 2000 with eight points from four matches, play at Mainz.
'I want to see us finally play like a team on the pitch,' said Hamburg coach Thomas Doll, whose team sorely miss injured Dutch playmaker Rafael van der Vaart.
Hamburg, who have scored just four league goals this term, visit CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday after losing their first Group G match 2-1 at home to Arsenal.
New signing Juan Pablo Sorin of Argentina has yet to play for Hamburg due to a leg injury but he is expected to at least make the bench against Bremen.
Bremen, who host Barcelona on Wednesday, have lost their last four games - 2-0 at Schalke, 4-2 on penalties to amateurs FK Pirmasens in the German Cup, 2-0 at Chelsea in the Champions League and 3-2 at home to Stuttgart after leading 2-0.
'We're feeling the after-effects of the World Cup now,' said Bremen sporting director Klaus Allofs.
They may have Germany defender Per Mertesacker back from injury on Saturday. Mertesacker, who joined from Hanover 96 just before the season started, has been sidelined since the World Cup but played 58 minutes in a recent training match.
'We know what we're capable of but we're not doing it at the moment,' said Bremen goalkeeper Tim Wiese.
Champions Bayern Munich are another of the pre-season favourites who have failed to sparkle, having lost 2-1 at Arminia Bielefeld 2-1 last week after drawing at home to Nuremberg, and have slipped to third place with seven points.
Bayern host Alemannia Aachen on Saturday before Wednesday's match at Inter Milan.