In the world of football, a lot can happen in four months. More specifically, in the four months since their last Europa League game, SC Freiburg have completed a full winter training camp, played eleven league games and one cup tie, while a whole World Cup has been played out, with five members of the Freiburg squad taking part.
Things finally get going again on Thursday, when Christian Streich’s side take on Juventus in the last 16 of the Europa Leauge. The side from Turin are the Italian record champions, having won the domestic league 36 times, and also have a decorated history in Europe, including having won the UEFA Cup, what is known today as the Europa League.
For Freiburg, Thursday’s game will be their first taste of a last-16 game in European competition. Streich said after the draw against Gladbach that he wouldn’t deny anyone of the experience in Turin. “We’re not leaving anyone at home, regardless of whether they will play or not. Anyone that is able to will come.”
The two sides will meet twice within a week, with the first leg in Italy on Thursday. Streich is hoping that his team don’t allow themselves to be awestruck by their opposition’s big name. “Juventus are the favourites, so people over there are expecting them to progress. But you can never be sure. We’re going there to get a good result and play good football, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Italy international Vincenzo Grifo is of a similar opinion. “We deserve to be here as a team and we came through the group stage well. Juventus are a brilliant side with a great history, but we’re not coming here tomorrow to admire them; we’re coming to match them.” Streich said the most important keys to a successful result in Turin are “to be courageous, active in defence, and have a good approach play and a good passing game.”
While SCF reached the last 16 by topping their group thanks to five wins and a draw, Juventus entered via the playoff round after being eliminated from the Champions League. The Old Lady defeated FC Nantes 4-1 on aggregate.
Christian Streich has some positive team news ahead of the game, with Michael Gregoritsch available again after having to miss the match against Gladbach with illness. However, Wooyeong Jeong, who was also absent through illness, will miss Thursday’s game.