Our next opponents: Freiburg and the Streich factor

Sunday, 13.30 CET: A new kick-off time for Bayer 04 in the Bundesliga. The team and fans will have to make changes to their usual routines for the early game away to SC Freiburg on 7 October. The target remains the same, of course: three points on the road. Time to look at our next opponents.


The reaction to the first two defeats of the season is similar to opinions often expressed before the start of a campaign at Freiburg: SC are one of the sides most likely to be relegated and the quality of the squad is not strong enough. However, the critics have proved to be wrong in the recent run of fixtures: The team coached by Christian Streich produced an impressive performance to beat the, at that point unbeaten, VFL Wolfsburg 3-1, followed by a 1-0 victory against last season's runners-up Schalke 04 before losing 4-1 at Augsburg. In spite of that defeat, Freiburg have made a satisfactory start to the season with seven points to date and they are looking to at least finish no lower than last season when they were 15th at the end of the campaign.


Even though he is not keen to hear it: The success of SC Freiburg is closely linked to Christian Streich and it will be the same this season. The coach was missing from the touchline for the first two matches of the season due to injury and also missed out on a number of training sessions. Both those games were lost but the upturn soon followed as Streich return to the dugout on matchday three and seven points were then earned from four games. The 53-year-old is not only the public face of the club but also the reason why a number of players have signed for Freiburg, which would otherwise probably not have been the case. The signing of central defender Dominique Heintz (pictured above with Christian Streich) before the start of the season  was a real coup for Freiburg. Several Bundesliga clubs were interested in the former FC Köln player but SC came out on top – also because of Streich, as Heintz later explained. "They bring through good players every year and it's the right place for me to develop. Streich has always shown what he can do," said the 25-year-old to the EXPRESS. Other noteworthy new signings over the summer: Midfielder Jerome Gondorf from Werder Bremen plus forwards Roland Sallai (APOEL Nicosia) and Luca Waldschmidt (Hamburg SV). All three promptly demonstrated their value and have regularly played in the first matchdays and scored for their new club.


The fifth notable new signing at Freiburg,Brandon Borrello, is a long-term injury with a torn cruciate and the same applies to holding midfielder Amoir Abrashi signed last season. The long-term injury list also includes attacking players Yoric Ravet and Tim Kleindienst. There have also been a number of lesser injuries that have made it a challenge for Streich to name his starting line-ups. Right back Lukas Kübler, U21 international Janik Haberer, captain Mike Frantz – regular starters who have recently missed out and are also doubtful for the match against Bayer 04. A particular setback  is the renewed absence of top striker Nils Petersen (shoulder). The same applies to right back Pascal Stenzel who has suffered the same injury but is also slightly further on in terms of recovery than Petersen. It is quality that Freiburg cannot easily replace. The squad has grown bigger and bigger in recent years but there is still a perceptible difference between key players like Schwolow, Günter, Haberer and Petersen, and their team-mates. 


The signing of Heintz, and above all the reason for it, are impressive: SC Freiburg are making excellent progress. After outstanding players like Matthias Ginter, Vincenzo Grifo and Maximilian Philipp have come through under Streich in recent years and moved on to bigger clubs, the Breisgau region is a great place for young and ambitious players. That brings quality to Freiburg and also financial benefits. That means the club can develop in terms of business and infrastructure and is also in a position to invest – including in their own youth work that has brought through many regular first team players over the years. That ensures long-term existence in the top division  as a mid-table club in the Bundesliga – with the possibility of moving up or down.


For a season like two years ago, when Freiburg qualified for the Europa League with a surprise seventh-place finish, there is probably not enough quality this term for a repeat. Nevertheless, SC are stable enough under Streich to finish stronger this season than they did last time out when avoiding relegation went down to the wire on the last matchday. A finish between positions 10 and 13 seems realistic. If the injury situation eases and Freiburg produce consistently good performances on the pitch then they could finish in the top ten.

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