Can Nico Schlotterbeck and Co. keep Bochum at bay as Freiburg look to keep pace with the top four on Saturday (kick-off: 3.30pm CEST)?
>> Click here for the Freiburg vs. Bochum LIVE!
Although Schlotterbeck is the scorers’ leading defender this season with four goals, his main job is to keep them out. The 22-year-old has been the foundation on which Freiburg – who boast the third-nastiest defense in the division – have built their incredible season. Christian Streich’s men are fifth with five games to go, just three points off the top four and four from the teams just below them. Their dreams of a sensational UEFA Champions League qualification have been kept alive thanks (once again) to the greatest substitute in Bundesliga history. Nils Petersen scored for the 33rd time coming off the bench to hand Freiburg a 2-1 win at Eintracht Frankfurt last time out. The man himself said he couldn’t explain how he did it. The question for Streich was whether he stuck to the tried-and-true method off the bench or opted to deploy Freiburg’s all-time leading goalscorer. The league’s longest-serving coach is turning to the latter.
Bochum are also having a remarkable season thanks to promotion from the Bundesliga 2 last year. They are currently 12th, 10 points from relegation danger and may now be eyeing a second campaign in the top flight. They picked up a rare away win on their recent trips, beating Hoffenheim 2-1 thanks to an inspired display from Takuma Asano. And Bochum generally had the better of Bayer Leverkusen last time out but had to settle for a goalless draw – their sixth clean sheet of the season. Maxim Leitsch was surprised when VfL suffered an extra-time loss to Freiburg in the DFB Cup quarter-finals in March, so he will feel highly motivated alongside Armel Bella-Kotchap in central defence. Kostas Stafylidis reinvented himself as a starting midfielder alongside captain Anthony Losilla, while Simon Zoller returned on the final matchday after more than 200 days out with a torn cruciate ligament. Sebastian Polter, however, continues to lead the line for now.
Watch: Rising star Nico Schlotterbeck
- Schlotterbeck is fifth in the division in challenges won (64.9%). His teammate Lucas Höler leads the way for the total number of victories (390).
- Mark Flekken has saved a league-best 78% of shots this season.
- Freiburg are the most dangerous team in the Bundesliga from set pieces, both in terms of number of goals (21) and proportion of their total (46%). Seventeen of the dead balls were delivered by Vincenzo Grifo.
- Manuel Riemann (99) is two saves behind Flekken (101) and has a save rate of 73%. He is yet to concede three penalties in the Bundesliga but has also missed one himself.
- The promoted Bochum has 36 points on the board after 29 rounds. No team has ever been relegated with such a tally at this stage.
- Bochum have won their last three league meetings with Freiburg but were beaten in extra time in the DFB Cup quarter-finals this season.
Freiburg: Flekken – Kübler, Lienhart, N. Schlotterbeck, Günter (c) – Eggestein, Höfler – Sallai, Jeong, Grifo – Petersen
Subtitles: Uphoff, Siquet, Sildillia, K. Schlotterbeck, Schmid, Haberer, Weißhaupt, Höler, Demirovic
Outside: Keitel (broken toe), Schade (abs)
Coach: Christian Strich
Bohum: Riemann – Gamboa, Bella-Kotchap, Leitsch, Soares – Losilla (c), Stafylidis – Asano, Löwen, Pantovic – Polter
Subtitles: Esser, Masovic, Bockhorn, Osterhage, Rexhbecaj, Tesche, Blum, Zoller, Locadia
Outside: Antwi-Adjei (groin), Holtmann (unknown)
Coach: Thomas Reis