Freiburg - The Matchday 21 Bundesliga action winds down at the picturesque MAGE Solar Stadion, where SC Freiburg play host to Fortuna Düsseldorf on Sunday evening (kick-off 17.30 CET).
Düsseldorf, currently sitting 13th in the table, may be the side in more need of the points, but Freiburg, touted as serious European contenders upon the season's restart, have slipped to eighth on the back of three winless outings and are every bit as anxious to get 2013 up and running at the earliest opportunity.
By their own high standards, Freiburg's 2-1 defeat away at 1899 Hoffenheim last week was a poor performance. The hosts beat them at their own game, pressing high and closing down space relentlessly. Despite taking an early lead, Freiburg were hauled back just a few minutes later before a horrendous defensive error then allowed Kevin Volland to stroke home the winning goal.
In his pre-match press conference, head coach Christian Streich was evidently still irked by his team's display at the Rhein-Neckar Arena. "We were careless in Hoffenheim. A few players didn't give it their full concentration and didn't do the things they were supposed to do, especially at set pieces," said the 47-year-old. "We had ourselves to blame for losing the game and I don't see that happening again this weekend."
Up and Running
It would seem Fortuna can almost certainly expect a reaction from Freiburg, but they will be more than ready for the challenge after picking up a first win of the New Year of their own. A disappointing defeat at home to struggling FC Augsburg was followed by a derby loss at Borussia Mönchengladbach, meaning that last Sunday's 2-1 win against VfB Stuttgart came at an important time for die Flingeraner.
The key man, as he had been more than once before this season, was Australian attacking midfielder Robbie Kruse. The 24-year-old has four goals and four assists to his name in 18 league appearances for the club and is fast becoming one of the first names on head coach Norbert Meier's teamsheet. "I'm just happy to be playing," he said jubilantly after his double against the Swabians. "The first half of the season was great. I just hope we're back on track now."
Points the key
They may be separated by six places in the table, but a gap of just four points suggests that there is really not all that much to choose between these two teams, with each capable of taking a significant step forwards if they properly hit their stride.
The 0-0 draw at the ESPRIT Arena back in September was the first time the two clubs had met in any league fixture since May 1998, when Fortuna were relegated from the top flight. This time around, Kruse is unlikely to be far wide of the mark by predicting a "really tough game".
Freiburg: Sippel - Hedenstadt, Krmas, Diagne, Sorg - Schuster, Flum, Schmidt, Caligiuri - M. Kruse, Rosenthal
Düsseldorf: Giefer - Levels, Latka, Malezas, van den Bergh - Bodzek, Tesche, R. Kruse, Lambertz - Ilsö, Reisinger