Bayern Munich are in the position of being the hunters, rather than hunted, ahead of their Super Sunday showdown with Freiburg. From the goals of Sadio Mane to the clean sheets of Mark Flekken, bundesliga.com compares the defending champions and their surprise top-four - or should that be title - rivals...?
The season so far
This is unfamiliar territory for Bayern. After falling victim to a Borussia Dortmund late show in a dramatic four-goal stalemate in Der Klassiker, Julian Nagelsmann's team find themselves in third place, two points behind Freiburg and four adrift of surprise leaders Union Berlin, who kick off at home to BVB two hours earlier.
The 10-in-row defending champions flew out of the traps with three wins and a record 15 goals scored, but have won just one of their previous six (D5, L1). Cutting straight to the chase, 16 points marks their worst return at this juncture since 2010/11, when Jürgen Klopp's Dortmund lifted the title, Bayer Leverkusen finished second, and Bayern third.
Freiburg, by contrast, are the Bundesliga's form team. Seven matches without defeat (W4, D3) is currently the longest unbeaten run in the division, while 18 from a possible 27 points represents their second best return. Die Breisgauer had 19 on the board at this stage last term and went unbowed through their first 10, before losing 2-1 in Munich on Matchday 11.
Freiburg's sole reverse so far in 2022/23 fell at home to Dortmund on Matchday 2. They dropped to a season-low standing of seventh as a result, but hit the summit between Matchdays 5-6 and have occupied a place in the top three ever since. No team has amassed more points on the road (11), though the south-west outfit have never won at the Allianz Arena.
Watch: Bayern ended Freiburg's unbeaten start last season
Attack vs. defence
Bayern are yet to lose in four at home this season, but have dropped points in draws with Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfB Stuttgart. Nagelsmann's troupe scored three times in those games, contributing to their league-high 25 strikes for the campaign. Promoted Werder Bremen are the next best in that regard with 20, followed by Union, Gladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt, Cologne (all 16), Freiburg, RB Leipzig (both 14) and Dortmund (13). Mid-table Augsburg are the only team to have stopped the record champions from scoring - in a shock 1-0 defeat on Matchday 7 - across some 89 Bundesliga matches.
Bayern's defence isn't too shabby, either. Like Freiburg, they've been breached eight times, twice more than watertight leaders Union (six). It's Flekken who heads the league table for most clean sheets (five), though, compared to Manuel Neuer's three. Freiburg are also top dogs for aerial duels won (243), and third for distance covered (1044.2 kilometres/ 648.8 miles). Bayern are 15th (137) and eighth (1032.3 kilometres/ 641.4 miles) in the respective categories, but first for possession (62 percent), passes completed (88.1 percent) and challenges won (981). Freiburg are outside the top 10 on all three fronts, ranking outright last for the latter (821).
Bayern's 25 goals have been shared by 11 players, and one member of the opposition. Jamal Musiala boasts a five-goal share, while Mane and Leroy Sane have four apiece. Of Freiburg's six different marksmen, striker Michael Gregoritsch has hit four, followed by midfield playmaker Vincenzo Grifo's three.
Musiala is also Bayern's best for assists (four), but the all-singing, all-dancing teenager is a doubt for Sunday's clash after testing positive for Covid-19. The fit-again Thomas Müller, who missed the Dortmund draw, has set up three goals. That's one more than Freiburg's top provider, young right-back Kiliann Sildillia.
As the last line of a stingy defence, Flekken's importance to the cause cannot be underestimated - but keep an eye on summer signing Daniel-Kofi Kyereh. The Ghana international has scored in back-to-back games as the nominal No.10 in a Freiburg starting line-up unchanged in four successive Bundesliga matches for the first time during Streich's 11-year reign.
Watch: Mane and Gregoritsch compared
The Bundesliga's longest-serving current head coach heads to Munich chasing another piece of history. No Freiburg boss has ever presided over a league win on Bayern's patch. The 57-year-old should keep faith with his customary 4-2-3-1 formation in his latest bid to break the cycle.
It's the tactical set-up typically preferred by Nagelsmann, who sits second to Streich for total games (332/ 225) among the Bundesliga's incumbent masterminds. The 35-year-old leads the head-to-head record seven to two, winning the previous four on the bounce. Three have ended all square - but not one has been goalless. The last time Bayern were involved in a 0-0 draw in the Bundesliga, Nagelsmann was in the opposition dugout (vs. Leipzig, 9 February 2020).
The Bayern coach is without suspended winger Kingsley Coman, but midfield heartbeat Kimmich is expected to start after only being fit enough for a second-half cameo in Der Klassiker. His inclusion adds a sprinkling of set-piece spice to proceedings. Since the summer of 2021, only dead balls - that's penalties, free-kicks and corners - taken by Grifo's wand of a right boot have resulted in more goals (22) than Kimmich equivalents (18). Both men have already contributed a league-leading four this season.
Third against second on the same day first plays fourth, with a month until the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Never before has a game between Bayern and Freiburg carried so much intrigue. Stay with bundesliga.com for all the pre-match, live and post-match coverage of a top-of-the-table fixture that could have very real ramifications for one of the most open and entertaining title races since Klopp & Co. took gold, against all the odds, over a decade ago...
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