However, the excitement of European football is not only driving Borussia Dortmund at present, as opponents Freiburg are also still in the hunt for qualification next season.
Black Forest titans
Few would have anticipated such a scenario at the start of the season, but it is credit to the work done by Freiburg coach Christian Streich that his side are still within touching distance of the top six at such a late stage of the campaign. “They’ve had an unimaginably good season,” said Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp. “If we give it anything less than 100 per cent, then that will not do.”
Hitting top form could be a challenge in itself for Dortmund, who will be without defensive lynchpin Mats Hummels, and former Freiburg midfielder Sebastian Kehl. The absence of Hummels means Felipe Santana and Neven Subotic will partner up in the centre of defence for the forseeable future, and Streich is convinced they will do an equally good job. “They have fantastic individual quality, but we’ve got to live with it and find solutions which our opponents won’t expect.”
Step forward Sahin
Unpredictability has been the foundation upon which Streich has built his Freiburg empire. “They have such speed out wide and cleverness in the middle,” said Klopp. “At times, they have no striker, and then all of sudden there are five of them up there.” Klopp is therefore pondering a more defensive approach with Nuri Sahin and Ilkay Gündogan expected to holding things together in central midfield.
For Sahin, it would be only his second appearance in the starting XI since joining on loan from CF Real Madrid in January. “He’s getting better and better,” said Klopp. “Our second half against Schalke was better mainly because Nuri was playing. He has taken a big leap forwards.” However, Sahin will not come up against Cedrick Makiadi, who has been ruled out with a knee injury, while Sebastian Freis is also absent after a shoulder operation.
Leading the rest
With the Champions League draw behind them, Dortmund can aim to temporarily reduce the arrears on FC Bayern Munich with their eighth home win of the season, while striker Robert Lewandowski will be looking to score in his eighth game in a row. “We may not have got everything right this season, but we have got enough right for us to be leading the rest of the league,” said Klopp, aware as much as anybody that Bayern don’t seem to belong in the same league this season.
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic, Felipe Santana, Schmelzer - Gündogan, Sahin - Blaszczykowski, Götze, Reus - Lewandowski
Freiburg: Baumann - Mujdza, Ginter, Diagne, Sorg - Schuster, Flum - Schmid, D. Caligiuri - Rosenthal, M. Kruse