Michael Gregoritsch's fired Freiburg to 1 -0 win over West Ham in their UEFA Europa League last-16 first leg. - © IMAGO/Grant Hubbs
Michael Gregoritsch's fired Freiburg to 1 -0 win over West Ham in their UEFA Europa League last-16 first leg. - © IMAGO/Grant Hubbs

5 reasons Freiburg will beat West Ham in the UEFA Europa League - again!


It's crunch time in the UEFA Europa League, with a place in the quarter-finals at stake as Christian Streich's Freiburg side take on West Ham in the last 16. The German outfit won the first leg 1-0 - here's why they can finish the job at the London Stadium...

Click here for coverage of West Ham vs. Freiburg in the second leg!

1) Momentum can move mountains

As a small and splendid city close to the Swiss and French borders in Germany's wine-growing region, Freiburg is a place that seems virtually built to enjoy a European adventure. The local Bundesliga side have certainly delivered on that front in the recent past, with their run to the last 16 of the 2022/23 UEFA Europa League being repeated this season - in even more spectacular style.

Freiburg's recent knockout round play-off encounter with Lens, a team riding high in the French Ligue 1 table, was running against them with a 0-2 deficit at half-time at the Europa-Park stadium after a goalless draw in France. Streich's charges were in no mood to go out without an almighty battle though, and assaulted the Lens goal in the second period - with Roland Sallai's stoppage-time equaliser sending the game to extra-time before a Michael Gregoritsch strike cued even more remarkable scenes and sealed their spot in the last 16.

Anyone who has watched enough European football will tell you that a side capable of pulling off a cracking comeback like that is a team truly at home in their competition that has the spirit to go all the way. Freiburg are thrilled to have another European night at home within days of that spectacular clash.

Freiburg's head of football Jochen Saier said after the Lens win: "It was incredible. I have never seen the stadium like that. After our first goal went in, the energy was unbelievable." 

The Breisgau Brasilianer then produced a fantastic display in the first leg against West Ham, with Gregoritsch's late strike the difference between the two sides. Freiburg are on a roll and feeling confident, especially in this competition - they will take some stopping.

2) Remarkable Europa roots

After finishing the group stage last season as the joint second-highest scorers in the competition with 13 goals, Freiburg smashed an astonishing 17 in their latest group campaign - seven more than their opponents, West Ham. Their 21 goals in total makes them the joint-top-scoring side in the competition currently alongside ahead the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Liverpool.

Freiburg boast three players among the Europa League's top ten goalscorers - Vincenzo Grifo, Gregoritsch and Sallai.

Gregoritsch (l.) has scored five goals in this season's Europa League. - IMAGO/H. Langer

Ah, but do they have the sturdiness at the back to keep out their English Premier League opposition, we hear you ask?

They certainly do - no side has more than the four clean sheets Freiburg have taken against Olympiacos, Backa Topola, Lens and West Ham in this year's competition, while they also had three shutouts last term. That is no surprise under the defensively minded tutelage of Streich - only three teams in the Bundesliga conceded fewer in the 2022/23 season than Freiburg's 44 goals.

3) Strong European travels

The win at the Europa-Park Stadion was exactly what the doctor ordered and puts Freiburg in a good position to progress to the next round. However, the job is only half complete as a trip to the London awaits.

Their recent continental form will give them confidence of completing the double over the Hammers, though. They have lost just two of their previous eight away games in UEFA tournaments, winning four and drawing two.

Freiburg have been impressive on the road in European competition recently. - IMAGO/Stefanos Kyriazis/IPA Sport / ip

One of those losses came against West Ham in this year's group stage (2-0), while the other was a narrow 1-0 defeat to Juventus in the last 16 12 months ago. Olympiacos, though, were beaten 3-0 and 3-2 in Greece in 2022 and 2023 respectively, while Nantes were on the end of a 4-0 hammering at the Stade de la Beaujoire during the 2022/23 group stage.

During that run, Freiburg have scored 14 and conceded seven - fewer than one per game. The memories from those positive journeys will be something Freiburg can use as inspiration this time around.

4) Grifo gets goals

Ward-Prowse is known for his trickery from a dead ball, but Freiburg's very own set-piece specialist Vincenzo Grifo just continues to deliver. After three consecutive seasons as top scorer for the Black Forest club, the Italian is the joint top-scorer for Freiburg in this season's Bundesliga, with seven strikes already. 

A remarkable six of those have come from the penalty spot - and with two of his four Europa League strikes also coming from penalties, the ever-dependable Grifo has not missed a single spot-kick this season! 

Watch: All Vincenzo Grifo's free-kick goals in the Bundesliga

It's about time that the set-piece master sank another free-kick too, and the big Europa League clash might be the perfect stage for that. Grifo's only goal directly from a free-kick so far this season came during his hat-trick that saw Freiburg to a 3-1 win at Backa Topola in the group stage, so we can safely say he is capable of lighting up a special European night!

5) Streich-ing a chord

Living legend and fan-favourite Streich continues to charm Bundesliga followers, and his unpretentious yet passionate coaching style seems made for the Europa League.

Streich's record-breaking 12-year spell as Freiburg coach has been all about setting the club up as plucky underdogs working their way to the top of the German game. The fact that has gone so successfully has given the club the rare chance to enjoy European football, and the 58-year-old is relishing the opportunity for his side to shine on a continental stage, having spoken this autumn about how much motivation European encounters give him. 

Freiburg coach Christian Streich (pictured during the play-off win against Lens) has lost only six of the 22 UEFA Europa League matches he has guided the club in. - IMAGO/Joeran Steinsiek

The Freiburg coach is well-known as being a man of rousing words, and the chance for Freiburg to pull off a shock against English Premier League opposition in a European knockout tie is one that is sure to pull the strings of Streich as he delivers more motivational mastery.

Being in the Freiburg dressing room before the big European night will no doubt be a spine-tingling experience, and his men in red will head out brimming with purpose, confidently looking to land another famous win.