Freiburg - FC Schalke 04 hope to take another step towards automatic UEFA Champions League qualification when they travel to SC Freiburg on Saturday (kick-off 13:30 GMT/15:30 CEST).
Repeat of last season?
The Royal Blues are in pole position for third place with a three-point advantage over fourth-ranked Bayer 04 Leverkusen, and a win on Saturday would leave them needing only a draw on the campaign's final day. However, they could slip as low as sixth if results go against them in the final two rounds of the season.
Having lost their previous two against Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfB Stuttgart, head coach Jens Keller has called upon his players to get back to basics. “We need to be fully focused and be at our best. We have third place in our hands, and if we manage two wins, then there’s no need to worry about what the other teams do," said the 43-year-old, for whom the trip to the Black Forest is likely to bring back some happy memories.
The Mage Solar Stadion was the venue where they dramatically sealed Champions League qualification last term, pipping Freiburg themselves to the post on the season’s final day. Julian Draxler scored in that encounter and is on the brink of making his 100th appearance for the Gelsenkirchen club, which will make him the youngest player to reach a century of top-flight appearances, while team-mate Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is also currently on 99 not out.
'Down to our attitude'
Freiburg finished last season in fifth, but have spent much of the current campaign battling against relegation. Nevertheless, a recent run of four consecutive home wins, as well as a haul of 17 points from their last eight matches, have helped the Baden-Württemberg club secure their top-flight status for next term.
“You only have to look at the attitude of our players," explained Freiburg head coach Christian Streich. "It's one of the main reasons why we are where we are today and no longer battling relegation with two games still to play. It's not important where we are now in the table - somewhere near Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt - but it's down to our attitude."
Höwedes and Kirchhoff in frame
Jefferson Farfan, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Christian Fuchs, Christian Clemens, Atsuto Uchida and Dennis Aogo are all unavailable for the trip to Germany’s southwest, while Sead Kolasinac is suspended having received his fifth yellow card last week. However, club captain Benedikt Höwedes could feature after returning to training this week, as could long-term absentees Jan Kirchhoff and Marco Höger.
As for Freiburg, defender Oliver Sorg and striker Felix Klaus could return, but Fallou Diagne, Mensur Mujdza und Vaclav Pilar have all been ruled out through injury. "We'll see how it goes on Saturday," said Streich."One thing's for sure: [Sorg and Klaus] will only play if they're fully fit."
Freiburg: Baumann - Sorg, Krmas, Ginter, Günter - Schuster, Darida - Klaus, Schmid - Guede, Mehmedi
Schalke: Fährmann - Hoogland, Matip, Felipe Santana, Ayhan - Boateng, Neustädter - Goretzka, Meyer, Draxler - Huntelaar