The Bundesliga is slowly entering the final stretch. SCF still have three home games and three away games to play before the end of the season. Prior to the last four matchdays against RB Leipzig, Union Berlin, VfL Wolfsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt, each of whom are direct rivals in the fight for the European places, Freiburg will first face FC Schalke 04 at home before an away trip to 1. FC Köln.
Their opponents from Gelsenkirchen are level on points with VfB Stuttgart (16th) in 17th place after their brilliant 5-2 win against direct rivals Hertha BSC. While SCF have often struggled against lower-placed sides in previous years, they are still unbeaten against teams from the bottom half of the table this season.
Streich warns against Schalke
In addition to the table situation, the most recent statistics in this meeting also speak clearly in favour of SCF, who are unbeaten against Schalke in eight Bundesliga games, including the decisive 2-0 victory at the Veltins-Arena last autumn. Compared to the first half of the season, however, the Schalke team have developed considerably, according to Christian Streich. “Schalke are now giving everything in the relegation battle,” said the SCF head coach at Friday’s press conference. “I have no concerns whatsoever that anyone thinks it will be easy on Sunday. It will be a very hard-fought game.”
The visitors from the Ruhr area have several key players out due to injury, including goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann, who has to miss out with an adductor injury. He will be replaced by former Freiburg player Alexander Schwolow.
Several doubts in the squad for SCF
Not all players will be available for the Freiburg coaching staff when it comes to picking the starting eleven. Roland Sallai and Maximilian Eggestein are out suspended, while Michael Gregoritsch, who was absent in the 2-1 away win against SV Werder Bremen due to ankle problems, was able to start training on Thursday. Lucas Höler returned this Friday due to illness. Ritsu Doan was also ill during the week. “It is completely open how we will line up on Sunday,” said Streich.
Yannik Keitel, Merlin Röhl and Robert Wagner had a “good week of training” and one of the three will replace Eggestein and play alongside Nicolas Höfler. There was more good news to report about Manuel Gulde, who completed fitness training for the first time this week and initial training on the ball.
No numbers games for the head coach
On matchday 29, which is dedicated to climate protection and sustainable mobility for SCF, the club could further extend their lead above seventh place with a win. Addressing this point, Christian Streich said, “If we were to win, it would certainly make a nice Sunday. It’s always about what you actually do.” It was generally agreed that “a draw wouldn’t be so bad” with a view to the games against teams close in the table.
In one table, SCF were replaced from the top spot on the last matchday. Koen Casteels surpassed Mark Flekken after Wolfsburg’s 0-0 draw against Bayer Leverkusen and has now kept a clean sheet in 11 games this season. Freiburg, curiously, have conceded a goal in each of their past eight home games. “That’s bad on the one hand, but on the other it’s not so bad because it’s only one goal. It’s still true that we often didn’t concede in the first half of the season,” said Streich. After all, of the eight games mentioned, Flekken and the rest of the team only suffered a loss in the 1-0 defeat against FC Bayern Munich a fortnight ago.
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