Breisgau Bulletin: Hertha Recap and Hoffenheim Preview

Recap: Auswärtssieg in Berlin

On the back of goals from Felix Klaus and hometown boy Maximilian Philipp, SC Freiburg notched a vital 2-0 win at Hertha Berlin Saturday afternoon. It was Freiburg’s second win away from home this season and their first clean sheet since a scoreless draw with Hamburg on match day 15. The three points temporarily vaulted Freiburg out of the table’s danger zone to 15th, only to be knocked back into the relegation playoff spot after Paderborn’s defeat of Hannover.

Formation and Tactics

As to be expected, Christian Streich lined up his club in the all-too-familiar 4-4-2 “double 6,” the formation he’s used in all but two of Freiburg’s matches this season. He made good on his word and dropped an ineffective Pavel Krmaš in favour of Immanuel Höhn, and though Streich hinted Jonathan Schmid may be dropped to the bench, the Frenchman took his usual spot in left midfield. Having struggled with the flu all week, Julian Schuster started on the bench with Oliver Sorg filling in at defensive midfield and as captain. Sascha Riether took up Sorg’s normal spot at right back. The final two changes were at striker as leading the attack was “big” Karim Guédé and the aforementioned Philipp, who got the nod against the club he played for as a young boy.

Bürki – Riether, Höhn, Torrejón, Günter – Klaus, Darida, Sorg, Schmid – Philipp, Guédé

Thus far in the Ruckründe, Streich has fielded some fairly attack-heavy lineups, but this one seemed to strike a nice balance between attack and defence. Some of that can be attributed to the inclusion of Sorg in the midfield, as he is a good two-way player.

Now Freiburg is almost always a press-and-counterattacking side straight from the kickoff. Such tactics are helped along immensely when the club manages to get an early goal, which they did against Hertha. After the goal, it was plain to see that Freiburg was allowing Hertha the lion’s share of the possession while clogging the passing lanes in midfield. This forced the home side into playing a lot of lateral passes along the back line while the SCF forwards harried the ball, which either prolonged the back-and-forth passing or forced a long, hopeful pass upfield that could then be easily managed by Freiburg defenders. Already a side lacking creativity, Hertha’s attack was quite effectively nullified.

This isn’t to suggest that Freiburg were cutting Hertha apart on the counter, far from it.Freiburg’s passing in the attacking third was actually quite poor, and for all of the wing play, not much at all was generated from it. Instead, Freiburg managed to make the most from the small number of opportunities they created, with both goals actually coming from set pieces. To sum it up in a sentence, Hertha were poor while Freiburg were efficient.

Man of the Match

The match was far from a classic. There were no real standout performances, at least in an overly positive manner, but my man of the match was Felix Klaus. He found some success dribbling down the right wing in the first half, so much so that Hertha boss Pál Dárdai substituted ineffective left winger Nico Schulz after only 45 minutes. But Klaus’ biggest contribution was the early goal which allowed Freiburg the opportunity to play match how they wanted to against a hapless Hertha.

Preview: Badische “Derby” versus Die Hoffe

When Freiburg host Hoffenheim Saturday, they will be looking for their first back-to-back wins since match days ten and eleven, perhaps building a bit of momentum heading into a difficult run of matches.

Hoffenheim, who sit seventh in the table, will also be looking to continue to get their season back on track after having snapped a three-match losing streak last week with a last-gasp win over struggling Stuttgart. Die Hoffe really feasted on their nine match unbeaten streak to begin the season, but since match day 11, it has been much more of a famine with just three wins since.

Team Selection and Tactics

To say that Freiburg are facing a bit of an injury crisis is a bit of an understatement. Already without the services of Stefan Mitrovic, Admir Mehmedi, and Nils Petersen, Christian Streich’s team were cruelly dealt additional injury concerns this week.

Marc-Oliver Kempf, just now back in training from a long term injury, is out with a suspected ankle-ligament tear from a knock suffered in training.

Mike Frantz, who sat out last week’s match with the flu, is still bed-ridden and will not play a part in this week’s action.

New signing Mats Møller-Dæhli is out for a few weeks after injuring knee ligaments.

Mehmedi did return to training this week but his return is still yet to be determined.

Perhaps the bit of good news is that Julian Schuster, Pavel Krmaš, and Nicolas Höfler have all recovered from their ailments and will be available for for action.

Streich has hinted that his starting XI may remain unchanged from last week, and in all honesty, it might be the best one to trot out, with a possible exception of Schuster pairing with Darida in the middle to allow Sorg to play his natural right back position.

Possible starting lineup versus Hoffenheim: (4-4-2 “double 6”)

Bürki – Riether, Höhn, Torrejón, Günter – Klaus, Darida, Sorg, Schmid – Philipp, Guédé

Tactically speaking, it would not be at all surprising to see Freiburg really have a go at their opponents. For all of their offensive potential, Hoffenheim remain one of the Bundesliga’s poorer defensive sides, which might give some former Oliver Baumann fans a nice bit of schadenfreude. It will definitely encourage Freiburg to take the game to Hoffenheim, as opposed to relying mainly on counterattack opportunities. Expect to see a lot of the play funnelled wide, as Schmid and Klaus look to take full advantage of Hoffenheim’s struggles with defending the flanks.

Freiburg will also do well to make sure they are well-drilled defensively, as Hoffenheim can be dangerous in attack. In fact, the Hinrunde match between these two sides ended in a 3-3 draw. Steich himself said that his club will definitely need to minimise the mistakes in order to have success, which isn’t really Earth-shattering news, but after the last home match versus Borussia Dortmund was so riddled with these mistakes, perhaps it bears repeating.

Prediction Time

Unlike Saturday’s Topspiel, in which opportunities are sure to be at a premium, expect Freiburg and Hoffenheim to score goals! Last week, Freiburg were opportunists in the purest sense of the word and took full advantage of Hertha’s overall mediocrity. Against Hoffenheim, Freiburg will have their chances and will need to capitalise on them because they know full well there will be opportunities at the other end. In the last five matches between the clubs, there have been 25 goals. Expect that trend to continue.

Freiburg wins, 3 – 2.

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Born in Toronto, Adrian is a first generation Canadian by way of Bavaria and the Black Forest. After some intense football soul searching he's now a fully fledged member of the Church of Streich. Follow @AdrianSertl

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