The 21st January 2023 was a dismal day, at least for all those who accompanied SC to their first Bundesliga game in the New Year. After a long journey and in temperatures just over freezing, the scoreline read 6-0 to Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen-Arena after 90 minutes.
Christian Streich suggested that the game earlier in the season plays no role in his thinking ahead of the clash on Friday night, which he shared with the media during his press conference on Wednesday: “Wolfsburg’s system will be a different one,” suggested the SC head coach and stated that he wants to put that game right to the back of his mind.
Streich continued on SC next opponents: “I thought at first that they wouldn’t lose again after our game. Anything is possible at Wolfsburg. They are a team that are hard to play against. They have pace and physicality.” Wolfsburg have had a particularly excellent season away from home and are third in the away table, behind only Bayern Munich and SC.
Brilliant goalkeepers on both sides
Niko Kovac’s side are currently sixth in the table and have a good chance of qualifying for Europe. One key reason for this success up until now has been goalkeeper Koen Casteels. The tall Belgian has kept twelve clean sheets this season, exactly the same number as Mark Flekken.
A 0-0 might not be too bad a prediction then, but it would not fit with the exciting programme SC have planned for their final home game, beginning at 17:00 CEST. Nevertheless, there will be reason enough to celebrate regardless of the result.
A finish in fifth place or higher has been confirmed since last Sunday, and with a gap of three and four points to Union Berlin and RB Leipzig respectively, Freiburg still have the opportunity to move into fourth spot, despite a bitter defeat in Köpenick last Saturday. “If we manage to win on Friday then the others will have to follow suit,” said Christian Streich. “The season isn’t over yet and we want to play well regardless of the circumstances.”
Send-off for Petersen and Schmid
The Freiburg coaching team have a few difficult selection decisions to make going into matchday 33. Philipp Lienhart has rejoined full training having recovered from illness, while Streich suggested that his options have also increased due to the fact that young players like Kimberly Ezekwem, Kenneth Schmidt and Noah Weißhaupt have “taken steps forward” in the last few months. “We are pleased about that – for the here and now, but also for next year,” said Streich.
For two long-serving players, their journeys in a Freiburg shirt are coming to an end. Jonathan Schmid and Nils Petersen will both say their goodbyes to the fans before kick off on Friday. “I really can’t imagine Nils not being there on the training pitch with us anymore. He became an international with us due to his ability and his personality. Jonny is a natural talent. A young player who spent his whole time playing football on the street and also a very solid player for the team – a Freiburg player through and through,” said Christian Streich, describing two players who have shaped the way that Freiburg play over a number of years.
This alone should give their teammates plenty of motivation ahead of Friday night’s game, or as Streich put it: “We want to give the boys a proper send-off.”
Photo: Fabian Bimmer