Gelsenkirchen - Fond and sad memories will be revived when FC Schalke 04 take to the field against SC Freiburg at the Veltins Arena on Sunday (kick-off 15:30).
The last time these two sides met, on the final day of last season, a win for Schalke saw them claim a place in the UEFA Champions League at the expense of their opponents, who had to settle instead for a berth in the UEFA Europa League.
The Royal Blues have made the most of their opportunity to appear in Europe's elite club competition, reaching the last 16 as one of four Bundesliga sides by defeating FC Basel 1893 on Wednesday. Now, though, they turn their attention to facing a struggling Freiburg, who were eliminated from the Europa League on Thursday night.
"Freiburg have a lot of quality," said central defender Felipe Santana, who is set to deputise at the heart of the defence for the injured Benedikt Höwedes. "They're very dangerous opponents. We're going to have to keep our focus for 90 minutes to not receive any nasty surprises. If we play the way we did against Basel though, I'm sure that we'll keep the three points here. We want to play a super game with our fans behind us."
As well as Höwedes, Schalke also lost Julian Draxler during their midweek victory. Both have been ruled out until January and the start of the second half of the season. "We've had to pay a big price for reaching the last 16," said coach Jens Keller, who should restore Adam Szalai to his starting XI as a result, moving Kevin-Prince Boateng back into the support role.
Despite a brave performance, meanwhile, Freiburg bid farewell to Europe this week after going down 2-0 at home to group winners Sevilla FC. With their European adventure behind them, and following elimination from the DFB Cup, their focus now turns to putting their league house back in order, starting off from where it all ended last season.
Streich has no doubts
"When you see the passion with which the team played [against Sevilla], without getting their reward, then I've got to say it hurts," said coach Christian Streich on Thursday night. "But our lads stick together. There's no criticism. We analyse the game and prepare for our next one. May is when all the points are added up, and we'll see then where we are."
Between now and then, Freiburg will of course be doing their best to get as many points on the board as they can. With only two wins in 15 games, they need the forward fire-power of Admir Mehmedi, Vladimir Darida and former Schalke forward Mike Hanke now more than ever, and Streich left little doubt his men will deliver in the coming weeks, starting against Schalke. "We're mentally strong and we've proven that time and time again," he said.
Schalke: Fährmann - Uchida, Matip, Felipe Santana, Kolasinac - Jones, Neustädter - Farfan, Boateng, Fuchs - Szalai
Freiburg: Baumann - Sorg, Höhn, Diagne, Günter - Ginter, Höfler - Fernandes, Freis - Darida - Mehmedi