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By ESPN Staff

Bundesliga: Bremen and Stuttgart to bounce back

BERLIN, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Werder Bremen defender Per Mertesacker is confident Tuesday's fighting defeat at Real Madrid will help his team when they host champions VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Bremen and Stuttgart have suffered miserable starts to the German championship, winning only two of their first five matches and dropping four points behind frontrunners Bayern Munich.

Mertesacker put in a typically dominant performance at the centre of Bremen's defence against Real but was unable to prevent Raul and Ruud van Nistelrooy scoring to help the Spanish champions to a 2-1 win in the Champions League Group C opener.

'It was good that we showed enough grit to hit back straight away after going down 1-0,' the German international told Bremen's Web site (www.werder.de).

'All in all, the match was an important signal for the Bundesliga in coming weeks.'

Stuttgart were also beaten in midweek, going down 2-1 at Scotland's Rangers.

The only good news was seeing Mario Gomez score on his Champions League debut. Their chances of getting something from Saturday's league clash rest largely on the form of the young striker, Germany's player of the year last season.

Schalke 04, last season's runners-up, are undefeated in the league this season but have drawn four of their five matches and slipped to eighth, level with Bremen and Stuttgart on seven points.

They lost 1-0 at home to Valencia on Tuesday, one of a full set of German defeats in the Champions League, and host this season's surprise packages Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday.

'We should take the best away from the Valencia match and show more commitment in the coming weeks,' Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones said on the club's website.

Bielefeld are in second place on 10 points, one behind Bayern. Trainer Ernst Middendorp said the club's success this season was no fluke, pointing to impressive wins over VfL Wolfsburg and Hertha Berlin.

'We will do everything to keep up the pressure on Bayern,' Middendorp told Wednesday's Bild newspaper. 'Everything.' Bayern are in UEFA Cup action on Thursday, playing in the second-level competition for the first time since 1996-97 after they failed to qualify for the Champions League.

Bayern have drawn their last two Bundesliga matches, against Hamburg SV and Schalke, and host Belenenses of Portugal in the UEFA Cup first round before travelling to sixth-placed Karlsruhe on Sunday.