Germany international defender Nico Schlotterbeck will be no pushover in the 2021/22 DFB Cup final, but he's not the only Freiburg player RB Leipzig should be worried about. bundesliga.com has the skinny on Die Breisgauer's foremost quintet...
Mark Flekken (goalkeeper)
Mark Flekken made headlines for all the wrong reasons back in 2018 after suffering a real-life FIFA glitch in a Bundesliga 2 match between former club Duisburg and Ingolstadt. Having gone to take a sip of water, thinking the ball was not in play, the Dutchman was left standing like a frozen FIFA goalie, poised to make a save but three yards behind his line as Ingolstadt's Stefan Kutschke pounced on what should have been a routine back-pass and finished into the unguarded net.
Happily, Flekken can't be accused of 'glitching out' in 2021/22. The Freiburg No.1 conceded 39 times in 32 Bundesliga matches, whilst finishing a tie for first in the clean sheets department with, among others, DFB Cup final opposite number Peter Gulacsi and Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer (on 10). The recently capped Netherlands international also ranked second for shots to saves (72.9 percent), and has conceded just three times in normal time across his four DFB Cup outings.
Nico Schlotterbeck (central defender)
Schlotterbeck is another integral part of the Freiburg spine - just not for much longer. As well as his first senior Germany caps, the 22-year-old's performances over the course of the campaign have yielded a summer move to Borussia Dortmund. Needless to say he's earned both. 'Schlotty' won more tackles than any Bundesliga centre-back in 2021/22 (394), and was sixth league wide for successful challenges of the aerial variety (128).
Watch: Nico Schlotterbeck - a rising star
"Left-footed, a player you obviously want to see playing at centre-back but is also very versatile and can play in different positions," said Gemany head coach Hansi Flick, who handed Schlotterbeck his senior international debut in March. "He can play in a back three but also, because of his footballing quality, can play in midfield." Those footballing qualities helped Freiburg's 6'2" platinum-blonde bombshell score four times, putting him joint second league wide for goals by centre-backs.
Christian Günter (left-back)
When you have a left-foot as cultured as Christian Günter's pinging balls into the danger zone, it's no wonder guys like Schlotterbeck and teammate Philipp Lienhart - the 2021/22 Bundesliga's five-goal top-scoring central defender - find so much joy in the opposition penalty box. The 29-year-old produced nine assists from left-back this past Bundesliga season - more than any defensive player in the division - and chippped in with a couple of goals of his own.
Günter sets a fine example in general. Freiburg's captain fantastic has started and finished all 39 of of his side's competitive games ahead of the final, whilst collecting just five yellow cards in a position where recovery challenges can so easily go awry. His willingness to get up and down the Freiburg left is borne out by his 226.5 miles (364.6 kilometres) for distance covered. Only Anthony Losilla (Bochum) and Maximilian Arnold (Wolfsburg) - two central midfielders - put in more Bundesliga miles this term.
Vincenzo Grifo (attacker)
Freiburg's most productive player in an attacking sense is Vincenzo Grifo. The Italy international scored a team-leading nine Bundesliga goals in 2021/22, whilst producing seven assists. No Freiburg player had a direct hand in more goals. The same is true in the DFB Cup, where Grifo has registered four goals, including a brace in the last-16 win over former employers Hoffenheim. Freiburg's next best for cup goals is Nils Petersen with two (more on him later).
Grifo typically operates on the left-hand side of the attacking triumverate behind the lone striker, but is capable of producing the goods from all angles. He's not afraid to wind up his trusty right foot from range, and is a master of dead-ball situations. The German-Italian playmaker notched an assist against Leipzig on Bundesliga Matchday 8, and get this: Freiburg are unbeaten this season in the 11 competitive games involving a Grifo goal, winning 10. Lucky omen, anybody?
Nils Petersen (striker)
From four nailed-on starters to one superlative substitute, Freiburg can always rely on Petersen for a goal. The former Germany international is the club's record 102-goal marksman, as well as the Bundesliga's all-time leading substitute scorer. He's struck 33 times in 120 substitute appearances in the colours of St. Pauli, Bayern, Werder Bremen and Freiburg, including four across nine top-flight cameos in 2021/22. That's 37.5 percent of his 88-goal total in the Bundesliga off the bench.
Watch: Nils Petersen lived up to his 'super sub' moniker against Eintracht Frankfurt
As a starter so far this season, Petersen has scored three goals in five games in all competitions. Two of them fell in the DFB Cup - in the quarter-final win over Bochum and semi-final triumph against Hamburg - and swelled his tournament tally to 20 goals in 33 outings. Strangely, for the best Plan B in Bundesliga history, only one of those cup strikes was as a substitute. Whatever his role in Berlin, Leipzig defenders better stick to him like glue.
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