The two clubs come into the meeting having both successfully qualified for the quarterfinals of the Europa League. Leverkusen held their nerves to advance on penalties against AS Monaco on Thursday evening, and have been drawn against Ferencvaros in the next round.
SC, meanwhile, have been drawn against Juventus. “We’re very much looking forward to the game against Juve. It’s a real highlight for us. It’s a great club and I’ve never been to Turin. It will be a fantastic trip for us and for the fans,” head coach Christian Streich commented on the draw. “However, right now, we’re focused on the game against Leverkusen.”
Without the captain
Streich will be forced to make one change to his starting XI, with captain Christian Günter suspended this weekend after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season. It’s the first match Günter will miss since February 2019, having featured in 153 consecutive games in that time. “Günni is very professional, both in how he prepares for a game and how he conducts himself. It’s definitely an impressive accomplishment to not have missed a match in so long,” Streich commented.
Having the fans on board
Lucas Höler, who missed SC’s 3-2 win in Leverkusen earlier this season due to injury, is hoping to play in front of a sold-out crowd this weekend. “There’s a lot we can build on from the Bochum game and we should take a similar approach to this weekend’s match,” he said. “With the fans at our back, we can deliver a strong performance at home.”
While SC are in the midst of a strong campaign that has them in the top six of the table, Leverkusen are stuck in mid-table after a shaky start to 2022/23. After a defeat to Mainz last weekend was followed by a victory against Monaco in mid-week, head coach Xabi Alonso is hoping that his players will be able to “regenerate quickly” ahead of Sunday. “Freiburg play with a lot of intensity,” Alonso said. “They will demand a lot of us.”
His counterpart Streich said, “The key thing will be for us to work as hard as we did in Bochum. Leverkusen are coming into this game on the back of their success in Monaco, while Patrik Schick, Florian Wirtz and Moussa Diaby are all back to full fitness. It’s a different team and only adds to their quality. You could see that against Monaco already.” Streich is expecting the Werkself to be in good spirits as a result of Thursday’s triumph, adding that Leverkusen’s tactics this weekend “won’t be the most important thing.” He added, “We aren’t able to influence that. The most important thing is how we approach the game. We need to be prepared to help ourselves. After the game, we can’t be left standing there saying our mentality was lacking.”
Photo: SC Freiburg