When last we checked in with SC Freiburg three weeks ago, they were sitting in 17th place on 22 points, with only local rivals VfB Stuttgart below them in the league table.
Fast-forwarding to the present, the only two things that have changed are that they’ve conceded five more goals and added three more losses to their record. In fairness to Freiburg, these three losses came at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen, an in-form Werder Bremen, and Wolfsburg, so they can hardly be chalked-up as points tossed away. However, the stark reality is that Die Breisgauer are still staring the pale face of relegation straight in its cold dead eyes.
Perhaps a little overly dramatic, but the basic point still stands as the threat of relegation is real. If Freiburg keep on their current path, Christian Striech and company will soon be adjusting to life in the second division. While prospects at present look rather bleak, there are definite reasons to be optimistic that Freiburg will ultimately evade the drop.
The worst of it is pretty much over
This weekend’s match against FC Augsburg will spell the fifth consecutive played against quality, top-half-of-the-table opposition, and in spite of their incredibly successful season so far, Augsburg’s recent form has been rather inconsistent.
Additionally, outside of matches versus Schalke and FC Bayern, the remainder of Freiburg’s schedule is incredibly friendly with games against Köln, Mainz, Stuttgart, Paderborn, Hamburg, and Hannover yet to be played. Given the side’s quality on any given day, all of those matches are eminently winnable.
The other teams around them are bad
Freiburg are seven points from mid-table, eight if you count tenth placed Borussia Dortmund. Of the teams placed 11th through 16th, one can reasonably assume that Mainz and Köln should be able to scrounge up enough points to keep them from getting sucked into the relegation vacuum.
This leaves Hannover, who are falling apart at the seams, Hertha Berlin, Hamburg, and Paderborn, who can thank the points they gained in the beginning of the season having them not sitting rock bottom. Stuttgart, of course, sit only two points behind Freiburg, but they’ve shown no interest in winning matches in quite some time.
Naturally the same argument could be made about Freiburg themselves, but having watched their matches, they are a much better side than their record indicates
They are in control of their own destiny
As mentioned above, Freiburg are just about through the roughest patch of fixtures and are now closing out the stretch run against very beatable teams. Adding to this, they still need to play all of the teams in their immediate vicinity in the league table. Winning the majority of these “six-point matches” will ensure their safety and will mean that Freiburg won’t be so dependent on scoreboard-watching and assistance from other clubs, although they’d for sure appreciate the help if it is given.
So Freiburg faithful, in the immortal words of Ian Dury, there are reasons to be cheerful!
For the first time in a long while, the squad is at near full fitness, as Nils Petersen and Mats Møller-Dæhli are available for selection coming off long-term injuries. Neither player, nor defender Marc-Oliver Kempf, who himself is only returning from a long-term injury, are likely to feature in the starting eleven, but any of them could appear as substitutes as Streich looks to ease the trio back into first team football. This means that the club is without only Maximilian Phillipp out with an injury and Marc Torrejón due to yellow card accumulation.
On the opposite end, Augsburg have only Alexander Esswein out. Jan Moravek, Sascha Mölders, and Dominik Reinhardt are all back training with the squad, though may not be featured this weekend. One concern facing the visitors is that Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, Paul Verhaegh, Raul Bobadilla, and Daniel Baier are all one caution away from suspension; all are players who are of great importance to manager Markus Weinzierl’s squad. The Freiburg attackers should hone in on this, especially in the case with Callsen-Bracker and Verhaegh, and try to exploit this situation.
In terms of the overall game plan, it is simple: Freiburg need to take their chances in front of goal. There have been numerous occasions where converting a good scoring chance could have changed a loss into a draw or a draw into a victory. Mike Frantz’s miss in the first half last week against Wolfsburg was just one in a long litany of fluffed chances that could have changed the momentum of the match in Freiburg’s favour. The opportunities will present themselves, but they need to be seized!
Here is where I’d normally project a lineup, but in this instance I’m just going to pick the lineup I’d most like to see. 4-4-2 “double-6”:
Bürki – Sorg, Höhn, Krmaš, Günter – Klaus, Darida, Schuster, Schmid – Guédé, Mehmedi
Freiburg are at home and they are going to want to christen the freshly laid turf with a victory. SCF 2 -1 FCA
There are many reasons to love Christian Streich, whether it is watching his animated gestures on the sidelines, his poignant comments on the 2022 World Cup, his humility in the face of a fine, or the fact that he rides his bicycle to the stadium, you really can take your pick. This past Tuesday, Streich was a guest at an event with the Ministerpräsident of Baden-Wüttemburg Winfried Kretschmann. He spoke about his experiences as a football coach, highlighting the fact that while the day-to-day activities don’t change much from youth football and the professional ranks, the television exposure and the criticism that comes with it is definitely a challenge.
Streich, a schoolteacher in his life before football, also spoke about the challenges facing Freiburg in developing the calibre of players that is required to play at the highest level in German football. Considering Freiburg is seen as somewhat of a feeder club (and an excellent one at that), they are in constant need of replenishing their stock with good young talent. The challenge for Streich is constant: he needs to find the balance between player development (i.e. playing meaningful minutes with the first team) with maintaining a place in the top flight and all of the benefits that come with that.
At the end of the event, Kretschmann, a former teacher and self-confessed Stuttgart supporter, and Streich exchanged handshakes and gifts – Kretschmann getting a lovely SC Freiburg pennant while Streich was given one with the Baden-Wüttemburg coat of arms. When the cameras came out and Streich saw that the Freiburg pennant was turned around, Streich, in typical Streich-fashion, made sure to flip the pennant so that the squad’s crest was prominently featured in the photos.
Seriously. How can you not love this guy?
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