Christian Streich’s side go into fixture as favourites, but the players refused to let the unfamiliar situation get the better of them. Experienced striker claimed that “surviving the group stages” was the priority, while goalkeeper highlighted the importance of “presenting Freiburg and Germany in a positive light”.
A 2-1 loss to FC Augsburg on Saturday was far from ideal preparation ahead of their first foray into European competition, but despite taking just two points from their opening five league fixtures, Freiburg are confident of coping with the added burden. “No one has to worry about us,” said Hanke, who featured in the tournament with Borussia Mönchengladbach last season. “The midweek fixtures could help us.”
Still coming to terms with a summer exodus that saw the spine of their team torn apart, the Black Forest outfit are weighing themselves down with expectation and are instead looking forward to testing themselves on the European stage. "It’s still going to take time for all the new signings to familiarise themselves with our style of play,” explained charismatic coach Streich. “But the players are really happy to be involved. As a player, I would have been too."
Up against a Liberec side yet to register a win against German opposition after six previous European encounters, Streich doesn’t have the luxury of a full squad to choose from, but has received positive news since the weekend. First-choice right-back Mensur Mujdza is expected to win his battle for fitness in time for Thursday evening, while Czech international Vladimir Darida could make his Freiburg debut after missing out against Augsburg.
However, Hendrik Zuck, Marco Terrazzino, Vegar Hedenstad and Vaclav Pilar remain unavailable for selection against the Czech visitors, who finished third in the Gambrinus Liga last season, much to Streich’s frustration: “These injuries are incredibly cumbersome”. Especially for a team that “wants to be judged on the way we play football”, as captain Julian Schuster stressed.
Freiburg: Baumann - Sorg, Diagne, Ginter, Günter - Fernandes, Schuster - Schmid, Coquelin - Freis, Hanke
Liberec: Kovar - Karisik, Kusnir, Kovac, Fleisman - Husek, Pavelka, Rybalka - Rabusic, Sural - Delarge