Freiburg - Having been on the receiving end of an unlikely comeback in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday, SC Freiburg have another chance to turn the corner this weekend when they welcome Hertha Berlin to the Black Forest on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 15:30 CET).
Dark days in Freiburg
“We could have gained some self-confidence in the Europa League, but instead we threw the win away as a result of two stupid mistakes,” said striker Mike Hanke following Thursday’s 2-2 draw against FC Slovan Liberec. Picking up three points for the first time this season, against a Berlin side struggling to find the net, would go a long way to getting Freiburg back on track.
Currently sitting in an automatic relegation spot for the first time since March 2012, two points from their opening five fixtures represents Freiburg’s worst-ever start to a Bundesliga campaign. “We’ve got to pick our heads up and give our all to beat Hertha on Sunday,” acknowledged Hanke.
In the unfamiliar position of having less than 48 hours to prepare themselves for their Matchday 6 encounter, head coach Christian Streich has admitted that he’ll “see how the players are feeling in terms of fitness and strength. At the end of the day, though, we don’t want to be making five or six changes. We’ve got to keep things tight, but also want to put in an attractive performance.”
Krmas questionable, Langkamp ruled out
However, Streich is aware that altering his side’s current trajectory against Hertha won’t be straight-forward. “They’re a very organised team, who play good football,” conceded the charismatic 48-year-old, whose injury woes were further compounded by the news that Pavel Krmas may miss out due to a bruised pelvis. The Czech centre-back could therefore join long-term absentees Mensur Mujdza, Vladimir Darida, Vegar Eggen Hedenstad and Marco Terrazzino on the sidelines.
For the capital city side, head coach Jos Luhukay is hoping to be able to call upon the services of Sebastian Langkamp, who after recovering from a pelvis problem of his own “isn’t just an alternative” due to being “an important building block of our backline”.
Fresh faces up front
The Dutch boss is better-equipped than his counterpart Streich in terms of injuries, but he nevertheless has to contend with a misfiring frontline, who after contributing eight of Hertha’s nine goals in the opening three matches, have gone 196 minutes without finding the net. “The important thing is that we’re still creating plenty of chances,” explained Luhukay. “If that wasn’t the case then there would be a reason to worry.”
With Langkamp pushing for a return, Fabian Lustenberger could shift into a holding midfield role alongside Hajime Hosogai, which would leave seven players to compete for the three positions in behind the striker. However, returning to winning ways, not squad selection, was the priority for Luhukay. “We know that Freiburg may not be 100 per cent assured of themselves at present and maybe we’ll be able to profit from one or two situations as a result,” concluded the 50-year-old.
Freiburg: Baumann - Sorg, Diagne, Ginter, Günter - Schuster, Fernandes - Schmid, Coquelin - Freis, Hanke
Berlin: Kraft - Pekarik, Langkamp, Brooks, van den Bergh - Lustenberger, Hosogai - Skjelbred, Ronny, Ben-Hatira - Ramos