After a 2021/22 campaign that brought pride to the masses in the Black Forest, Freiburg fans have seen Christian Streich's men power to new heights following a formidable start this term.
The story so far
Reaching a DFB Cup final and chasing a Champions League spot right up until the last day of the season last time out meant the fireworks were well and truly lit at the Europa-Park Stadion last May.
The pyrotechnics were still ablaze when Freiburg kicked off the season with a 4-0 win at Augsburg and although a loss at home to Dortmund followed, that was to prove a mere setback. By Matchday 5, Streich and his charges were on top of the Bundesliga for only the second time in their history after a club record haul of points.
On target in that opening triumph against Augsburg, Vincenzo Grifo along with new signings Michael Gregoritsch, Matthias Ginter and Ritsu Doan would all prove imperative to the Freiburg cause over the team's first 23 games of the season. Incredibly, during that run, last season's sixth-placed finishers lost just three times, winning 15.
Watch: Freiburg's new signings up and running
After topping the domestic standings in early November, Freiburg then took command of a tricky UEFA Europa League group, which they would later go on to win by an impressive five points.
Desperately hard to break down at their impressive new home, Freiburg went into the World Cup break boasting a ten-game unbeaten run in their own back yard. The second-meanest defence in the Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich - one of the three teams to beat Freiburg along with Dortmund and Leipzig - Freiburg have also picked up nine wins in the top flight in 2022/23 so far which, again, is only bettered by the reigning champions.
Local-boy-returned Ginter and captain Christian Günter have kept Freiburg solid at the back while up top, that Doan-Gregoritsch-Grifo triumvirate has proved a mouthwatering component filled with goals and assists. Italy international Grifo, in particular, is thriving, a first-ever Bundesliga hat-trick in his side's final game of 2022 against Union Berlin taking the 29-year-old to nine Bundesliga goals this term. Ex-Augsburg forward Gregoritsch has netted six times while the tricky Doan has added a couple of goals and assists.
Key player: Vincenzo Grifo
Already equalling his best top-flight goals haul for a single Bundesliga season [he scored nine times in two previous campaigns] Grifo is a whisper away from having his best season yet. And we're not even at the halfway stage of the campaign.
The 29-year-old converted a penalty in a 2-0 win against Werder Bremen in October to overtake one of his heroes Luca Toni as the highest scoring Italian international in the Bundesliga. Later, in his 189th game in Germany's top division, Grifo scored his first hat-trick in double-quick time to take the striker to 11 goals and three assists in 23 games across all competitions.
It was the perfect way to pull the curtain down on 2022 for Freiburg: a 4-1 home win against high-flying Union Berlin that sent the hosts into second place in the standings ahead of the end of year break. Grifo had a hat-trick inside the opening 20 minutes - two goals coming from the penalty spot - while Gregoritsch added a sumptuous fourth with a delightful, chipped finish that had the fans on their feet in appreciation at the Europa-Park Stadion. The ten men of Union grabbed a late consolation in the second half, but by then, the local celebrations had well and truly started.
Watch: Freiburg 4-1 Union Berlin
One to watch: Ritsu Doan
Prior to taking his fine form to the FIFA World Cup with Japan - where he scored group stage goals against Germany and Spain - Doan showcased his best with Freiburg.
The 24-year-old - who played on loan at Arminia Bielefeld from PSV Eindhoven last season - began life at his new club with a bang, scoring an extra-time winner against Kaiserslautern in the first round of the DFB Cup. He netted again in his very next game against Augsburg and has been a constant menace to defences ever since, something that seems certain to continue once the club season restarts.
View from the camp
"The lads have played a heck of a lot of games. It [was] a perfect day for us [in the final game against Union] and an extraordinary match, the likes of which I’ve never experienced before." - Streich
Key fixtures in 2023
- Eintracht Frankfurt (h), 23 January
- Sandhausen (a), DFB Cup last 16, 1 February
- Dortmund (a), 4 February
- Leipzig (h), 6 May
- UEL round of 16 (tbc)
Watch: The Bundesliga is back!
All 2022/23 season reviews:
Augsburg | Bayer Leverkusen | Bayern Munich | Bochum | Borussia Dortmund | Borussia Mönchengladbach | Cologne | Eintracht Frankfurt | Hertha Berlin | Hoffenheim | Mainz | RB Leipzig | Schalke | Union Berlin | VfB Stuttgart | Werder Bremen | Wolfsburg
Bayern vs. Leipzig: The Bundesliga's exciting new rivalry
After only debuting in the Bundesliga in 2016, Leipzig hope to be getting closer to challenging Bayern Munich for supremacy of the German game.
Bayern vs. Leipzig: top 5 previous meetings
A burgeoning rivalry that has produced some spectacular moments, Bayern vs. Leipzig is set to delight once more on Matchday 23...
Matchday 23 probable teams
Eric Dier might have to fill in at right-back for Bayern Munich against RB Leipzig amid a defensive injury crisis.