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bundesliga

Borussia Dortmund vs. Freiburg: how do they stack up ahead of Saturday's showdown?

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Neck-and-neck in one of the most exciting Bundesliga title races ever, Borussia Dortmund and Freiburg are locked on 34 points as they hunt down leaders Bayern Munich, and with the Black-and-Yellows hosting the boys from the Black Forest on Saturday, something's got to give.

bundesliga.com assesses the big-game terrain while predicting who might be the key protagonists at Signal Iduna Park, where the hosts have history on their side.

The year so far

Simply put, things could not have gone any better for Dortmund in 2023. Die Schwarzgelben played three and won three in the top flight in January. There was also the welcome sight of a Sebastien Haller debut, the striker having recovered from testicular cancer.

The New Year improvements have been welcome among fans of the fourth-placed Bundesliga side. Following six losses in their opening 15 matches prior to the winter break, Edin Terzic’s men were in sixth place and struggling for consistency. Suddenly, an incredible back-and-forth 4-3 win against Augsburg – in which Gio Reyna netted a wonderful winner – raised confidence levels while a last-minute victory in Mainz three days later (Reyna again with the winner) added further belief. Against a previously on-fire Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 18, BVB’s metal was set to be severely tested. The Black-and-Yellows passed the challenge, running out 2-0 winners at the BayArena to move within three points of leaders Bayern Munich.

Watch: BVB - back in the title race

Freiburg went into the pre-World Cup break on a supreme high. Streich’s side easily saw off fellow surprise challengers Union Berlin to finish the year in second place in the Bundesliga standings, boasting their best-ever points haul after 15 games. However, 2023 could not have gotten off to a worse start for the Black Forest side. The Christmas cobwebs still visible from an extended mid-season pause, Freiburg walked smack into a Wolfsburg team bubbling over with confidence. A 6-0 reverse was Freiburg's heaviest-ever defeat under Streich.

The wily tactician doggedly stuck to his plan for the subsequent game against high-flying Eintracht Frankfurt, however, and his persistent approach brought a significant improvement in a 1-1 draw. A 3-1 victory against Augsburg last time out had the Breisgau-based team back to winning ways and challenging for the top spots once again.

Watch: Freiburg back to winning ways 

History

If Saturday’s outcome was dependent on the teams’ head-to-head record in Dortmund, Freiburg would be in trouble. Fortunately for the neutral, in football's biggest games, the form book usually goes out the window. With the visitors desperate to change their fortunes at the home of the five-time Bundesliga champions, BVB know they will have to be wary.

Freiburg have won just once in 22 visits to Dortmund, while their trip north last season resulted in a 5-1 loss. That sole victory came in October 2001 (2-0) - almost two years before Jude Bellingham was born!

Overall in this fixture, Borussia have won 29 times with Freiburg triumphing on five occasions. There have been 11 draws. Terzic’s men are unbeaten in their last six at home and have scored at least a goal in their last 42 Bundesliga home games.

Watch: Dortmund down Freiburg on Matchday 2

Goals for, goals against

Dortmund and Freiburg can claim more Bundesliga clean sheets this season, with 15 combined, than any other team. The visitors lead the way having amassed an impressive eight blanks in their 18 top-tier games. In terms of goals scored, Dortmund’s 33 for the season is four more than Freiburg have managed. BVB have also netted eight times to Freiburg’s four in 2023, with six different Black-and-Yellow stars on target in that January run. BVB's eight goals from substitutes is also a league best and proves their strength in depth from the bench - as Freiburg felt on Matchday 2 when conceding two from playing who came on.

Key players

There are fewer players having a bigger impact in the world game right now than Bellingham, and the Borussia midfield machine – who captained his side in last weekend’s win at Leverkusen – will likely be at the forefront of proceedings against Freiburg. The division leader in terms of duels won (288), also shows 1,417 intensive runs (the fourth best total in the Bundesliga) while he has covered over 116 on-field miles to date in the German top flight.

Defences could play a big part in this encounter and if that transpires, two of Freiburg’s main men will be Matthias Ginter and captain Christian Günter. Ginter played more than 100 games during a three-season stay at Dortmund and, having won a notable 71 aerial duels with hometown club Freiburg this term, the Germany international will face some fascinating battles with Haller and Co. on his old stomping ground.

As well as his defensive astuteness, full-back Günter has provided two goal assists and has hit 49 crosses from open play this season, meaning the 29-year-old will provide an important attacking outlet for his side on Matchday 19.

Another player facing his former side is Nico Schlotterbeck, who scored four times in 56 games for Freiburg before transferring to BVB last summer. Asked about his ex-club in the build-up to Saturday’s game, the Dortmund No. 4 said, “It’s been years of hard work by all the staff there [and] it’s bearing fruit now. It’s something that deserves to be acknowledged.” Schlotterbeck will put his well wishes to one side once the opening whistle blows on Saturday and his attentions turn to keeping the likes of Michael Gregoritsch at bay.

Freiburg’s Austrian forward – who has racked up 47 shots while appearing in every Bundesliga game this season - put in an outstanding performance against Augsburg, netting in the 3-1 win to take his goalscoring tally for the season to seven (he also has three assists). Gregoritsch’s goalscoring feats at Freiburg are bettered only by Vincenzo Grifo – who has nine for the campaign (four coming from the penalty spot). The Italy international did not start against Augsburg on Matchday 18, but he will likely have a part to play in Dortmund after returning to full fitness.

As will BVB’s Karim Adeyemi, whose relief at scoring his very first Bundesliga goal in the win against Leverkusen will give the 21-year-old flying attacker even more belief when Freiburg come to town. With fit again Marco Reus also back in contention, Terzic’s confident team will prove a massive handful for Saturday’s visitors.

Adeyemi (l.) celebrated his first Bundesliga goal in BVB's win against Leverkusen. - Lars Baron/Getty Images

The coaches

The 40-year-old Terzic – enjoying his second stint at the Dortmund helm – has been trying to ensure his players keep their focus following a bright start to the year. “The job is not finished; it’s just three wins in three games in the New Year,” the tactician said. “We know there is a long way to go. [Against Freiburg, we can expect] an intense match that will once again be tight. But we're ready," he added.

With Streich’s sides picking up just one point in their 10 visits to face Borussia down through the years, the 57-year-old is keen his men give BVB a proper battle at the weekend. “We’ve often come up short in Dortmund [in the past] and it was the same last season,” Streich said. “We’d like to change that and make them really know they’ve been in a contest [this time around].”