Freiburg - Bayern Munich run out at SC Freiburg on Wednesday evening seeking to extend their already-emphatic lead at the top of the standings ahead of the weekend showdown with defending Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund.
Rosenthal on a roll
With BVB having dropped two points at home to Düsseldorf on Tuesday evening and third- and fourth-place Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt dropping all three against Hamburg and Mainz respectively, the men from Munich have the opportunity to move eleven points clear of closest pursuers Dortmund with a victory over Freiburg.
Back to their rampaging best in Saturday's 5-0 demolition of Hannover 96, Bayern will nonetheless be approaching their assignment in the Black Forest region with extreme caution.Freiburg go into the game on a high after dispatching regional rivals VfB Stuttgart to the tune of 3-0 on Sunday, a result that moved Christian Streich's troops up to sixth place at the end of Matchday 13.
Once again, the provincial club from the deep South West are thus far defying widespread predictions of a grim battle against relegation and, having also won 2-1 at Hannover the previous week, they now have the opportunity to claim a notable hat-trick of scalps against the most eminent name of the lot. "We'll get our chances, even if it's maybe only one or two, and we'll have to make the most of them," said attacking midfielder Jan Rosenthal, himself getting back to top form in the wake of a wearisome knee injury.
Rosenthal, who bagged the winner at Hannover and opened the scoring against Stuttgart, is not anticipating seeing as much of the ball on Wednesday evening as he did at the weekend against a team who have dropped just five points out of a possible 39 this season, scoring 38 goals and conceding a paltry five in the process.
Streich - Never lower our standards
That said, Streich, asked at the pre-match press conference whether his team would be going into the encounter with "reduced expectations", was adamant that his side "never lower our standards, never - whether we're playing in the district league, or against Bayern".
Having admitted that he was relieved to be going into the encounter on the back of two wins that have lifted his side away from the fringes of the drop zone, the head coach vowed in summary that, "We'll throw everything we have into this one - and just have to wait and see if it's enough come the final whistle."
Not part of that equation for Streich on Wednesday are Matthias Ginter, Immanuel Höhn, Marco Terrazzino and Ezequiel Calvente due to injury or, in the latter case, removal of an abcess - young Norway international Vegar Eggen Hedenstad is meanwhile set for a start in one or other full back berth in place of the suspended Mensur Mujdza.
One game at a time for Heynckes
Streich's FC Bayern counterpart, Jupp Heynckes, was meanwhile equally straightforward about the importance of this encounter ahead of the big game against the champions: "Forget Dortmund - SC Freiburg are the highlight for us!“ The veteran tactician insisted that he would be paying "no regard" to Matchday 15's potentially defining meeting when it comes to choosing his line-up, even though Bastian Schweinsteiger, for example, is currently one booking away from a suspension.
Arjen Robben, Luiz Gustavo, Daniel van Buyten and Emre Can are variously unavailable due to injury or lack of match fitness, but given the strength in depth of the Bayern squad, the main challenge comes in the form of the opposition.
"It's going to be really difficult to win in Freiburg. They're an incredibly compact, aggressive side who really come at you, especially on home turf. We're well aware of that," noted Mario Gomez, who himself made a spectacular comeback following an injury lay-off in the rout of Hannover. Nonetheless, the goal is clear, as skipper Philipp Lahm confirmed: "Ideally, we want to go into the game with Dortmund nine points ahead of them - at least."
Freiburg: Baumann - Hedenstad, Krmas, Diagne, Sorg - Makiadi, Schuster - Schmid, D. Caligiuri - Rosenthal, M. Kruse
Bayern: Neuer - Lahm, Dante, Badstuber, Alaba - Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger - T. Müller, Kroos, Ribery - Mandzukic