Freiburg have a familiar face to face when Max Kruse and Wolfsburg visit the Europa-Park Stadion on Saturday (kick-off: 3.30pm CET).
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Kruse returned Freiburg to UEFA competition for just the second time in their history in 2012/13. Almost 10 years later, having lost a Europa League third round qualifier in 2017/18, Die Brisgauer are back in the continental equation. Christian Streich’s surprise package currently sits sixth, having held fifth-placed RB Leipzig – their next DFB Cup semi-final opponents – to a 1-1 draw last weekend. The result extended their unbeaten streak to five competitive matches, ruling out news of Streich’s contract extension, and sees them just two points outside the Champions League places, with nine rounds of fixtures remaining. Ermedin Demirovic is likely to retain his place in the lead after scoring against Leipzig, but Germany international Nico Schlotterbeck is a doubt. Older brother Keven could be the man to replace at the heart of the best common defense in the Bundesliga this season (27 goals conceded).
Wolfsburg finished fourth last season but head to Baden-Württemberg around 10 points behind their hosts in 12th place. Ten points in their previous five outings eased relegation fears sparked by a nine-game winless streak between mid-November and late January, aided and abetted by shrewd deals in the winter transfer window. Kruse has started every coming since joining Wolves from Bundesliga rivals Union Berlin, including last weekend’s 1-0 win over his former employers. Danish striker Jonas Wind is also finding his feet on German soil, with two goals to score in his first five Bundesliga appearances – one more than Kruse. Centre-back Maxence Lacroix will be back after his suspension, while former Freiburg striker Maximilian Philipp is set to be recalled at the expense of Bartosz Bialek. Lukas Nmecha can also hope for more playing time after being granted half an hour last week when he returned from a long layoff with an ankle injury.
Look: Freiburg won 2-0 at Wolfsburg earlier this season
- Bundesliga-record substitute goalscorer Nils Petersen has three goals this season but at least seven in nine since leaving Bayern Munich in 2012. His record against Wolfsburg is three goals and two assists in 15 games.
- Freiburg have lost two of their first four matches at their Europa-Park Stadion, but are currently five unbeaten at their new ground (W3, D2).
- Freiburg goalkeeper Mark Flekken is tied with Wolfsburg counterpart Koen Casteels and Mainz’s Robin Zentner for the most clean sheets this season (eight).
- Casteels is set to become the record holder for Belgian appearances in the Bundesliga. He is currently tied with former Bayern defender Daniel van Buyten on 219 games.
- Kruse scored 11 goals in 34 appearances for Freiburg in 2012/13. He has seven of 37 as a Wolfsburg player.
- Only Hoffenheim have won more points (12) than Wolfsburg 10 in the last five Bundesliga games.
The probable compositions
Freiburg: Flekken – Kübler, Lienhart, K. Schlotterbeck, Günter (c) – Eggestein, Höfler – Sallai, Höler, Grifo – Demirovic
Outside: Keitel (broken toe)
Doubtful: Gulde (hitting), Schade (muscular), N. Schlotterbeck (knee)
Coach: Christian Strich
Wolfsburg: Pervan – Lacroix, Bornauw, Brooks – Baku, Schlager, Arnold (c), Roussillon – Philipp, Kruse – Wind
Outside: Otavio (knee), Van de Ven (thigh), William (knee)
Doubtful: Casteels (hip)
Coach: Florian Kohfeldt