Wolfsburg - In a meeting between two sides at opposite ends of the table, VfL Wolfsburg will be hoping home comforts can serve them well in their pursuit of a top-four finish when they host an in-form SC Freiburg side needing one more victory to secure their Bundesliga status for another year (kick-off 13:30 GMT/15:30 CEST).
'Push ourselves to the limit'
Just one point behind fourth-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen and with nine left on offer, the Wolves haven’t given up hope of grabbing the final UEFA Champions League qualification spot, especially with the Werkself set to welcome Borussia Dortmund to the BayArena this weekend.
However, head coach Dieter Hecking has urged his players not to dwell on possible permutations. “We don’t want to worry about what other teams are doing, but instead want to focus on ourselves and winning our home game against Freiburg - by whatever means necessary,” explained the 49-year-old. “My hope is that we’ll pick maximum points from our remaining games. Everything else is irrelevant if we don’t win our matches.”
Having clinched four wins from their last five games, most recently against 1. FC Nürnberg and Hamburger SV, the Wolves have fostered an air of steely determination and the players are desperate to do what many deemed unthinkable during pre-season - clinch a place at Europe’s top table. “We’ve got push ourselves to the absolute limit,” said Kevin De Bruyne, who has stepped up in a big way in recent weeks, registering a goal and two assists in his last two appearances.
The Belgian’s sentiments were echoed by Luiz Gustavo. “Of course we need to recognise that we’ve already achieved something, but we have the chance to accomplish even more,” explained the Brazilian midfielder, who misses out this weekend after being sent off in the 3-1 win in Hamburg. Joining him on the sidelines will be No1 Diego Benaglio, with Hecking admitting that the earliest return for the Swiss custodian will be against Stuttgart next weekend.
In spite of the club's personnel worries, Hecking is confident his side can pick up three points at home to “one of the most energetic teams in the league”, against whom he is well aware that “50, 60 percent won’t be enough”. Freiburg have concerns of their own in terms of their playing staff, as Oliver Sorg and Felix Klaus, two standout performers from the 4-2 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach, are both absent after picking up their fifth bookings of the season.
“There’s a lot on the line," said head coach Christian Streich, whose side have collected more points (16) than any other team over the last seven games, scoring 17 goals in the process. "When you take into account how the team have evolved in recent weeks, it’s never nice to have to make several changes to the squad. We’ve got to stand firm, get stuck into challenges and put in another courageous performance just as we have recently.”
With eight points separating Freiburg from the drop zone, safety is not yet guaranteed, but Streich has full faith in his charges going into the final stretch and believes they will be able to celebrate survival should they “strike the right balance” against Wolfsburg. “We’re going up against an incredibly strong opponent, but we’re in a good run of form ourselves,” said the 48-year-old. “Add to that our legitimate hope of once again securing our place in the Bundesliga next season and you need no added motivation.”
Wolfsburg: Grün - Träsch, Naldo, Knoche, Rodriguez - Medojevic, Polak - De Bruyne, Arnold, Perisic - Olic
Freiburg: Baumann - Schmid, Krmas, Ginter, Günter - Schuster, Darida - Freis, Fernandes - Guedé, Mehmedi