Freiburg - SC Freiburg go into their first season on the European stage for twelve years having lost a number of key players over the summer. The new faces thus far signed up in their stead are making a good early impression, however, and head coach Christian Streich is approaching the upcoming campaign with quiet confidence.
Tough training schedule
As has become the custom at Freiburg, the squad kicked off pre-season preparations with a couple of relatively laid-back days of "regeneration" before heading to Schruns, idyllically located in Austria's Vorarlberg, for their training camp. Not that there was anything idyllic about the stay itself, with twelve one-kilometre runs in relay just one of the stamina-sapping exercises on the programme ahead of a couple of games in the Kaiserstuhl Cup against Swiss outfits FC Winterthur (1-1) and FC Lausanne (1-2).
"The start of the camp was extreme, we were training twice a day," said Streich, whose men were also made work hard in the , "But that's helped ensure we've put in decent performances in our friendlies." The biggest challenge in the summer, however, without much doubt, has been adjusting to the departure of five first-team regulars in Max Kruse, Jan Rosenthal, Cedrick Makiadi, Johannes Flum and Daniel Caligiuri and the club have made good progress on that front.
22-year-old French midfielder Francis Coquelin, signed on loan from Arsenal FC for the season, has been particularly quick to impress, while former Greuther Fürth prospect Felix Klaus and the experienced Mike Hanke, late of Borussia Mönchengladbach, have been finding their feet up front for their new employers as well. Gelson Fernandes (Sporting Clube de Portugal) adds depth to the Freiburg midfield, and his compatriot Switzerland international Admir Mehmedi, another loan arrival from FC Dynamo Kyiv, brings further promise of fresh punch to the frontline.
Leadership role for Hanke
Weighing up a move from Gladbach, where he had not been offered a contract extension, Hanke "had a lot of discussions with Christian Streich and I think I really fit in here." The 29-year-old former Germany international acknowledges that part of his job will be "to guide the younger players and show by example that you need to adopt a completely professional approach if you want to compete successfully both at home and in Europe."
In Christopher Jullien (AJ Auxerre), Freiburg have also acquired a promising prospect for the medium term but the search goes on for each a potential first-teamer for central midfield and the attack. The fact that so many important players were able to leave thanks to release clauses in their contracts did initially cause a few ripples of unease in the club's normally tranquil ambience. The upside of that however is, of course, that the income generated from those transfers has enabled Freiburg to afford the likes such as Coquelin and Hanke. "The foundations are there," says Streich, "the new lads are raring to go."