Top of the table Borussia Dortmund travel to the Breisgau to play SC Freiburg.
SC Freiburg will welcome home one of their heroes from last season, Borussia Dortmund forward, Maximillian Philipp. After two match days it is safe to say that Freiburg desperately miss the scoring ability of Philipp, as well as another former Breisgauer, Vicenzo Grifo, who now suits up for Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Particularly painful for Freiburg is the fact that they really didn’t make any efforts to replace either forward, or the potential goals they would be scoring. Freiburg signed both Liverpool winger Ryan Kent, as well as attacking midfielder Bartosz Kapustka from Leicester City on loan. The club did produce two true signings in attack with centre-forward Florian Niederlechner and left wing Marco Terrazzino. The former two lack the experience, while the latter two lack the quality to compete against the Bundesliga’s elite, at least momentarily. I expect Freiburg’s attack to be led by Janik Haberer, Yoric Ravet, and the aforementioned Florian Niederlechner. At the moment, this trio is anything other than intimidating.
Typically, this would be an ideal year for Freiburg to build on their success from last season, a seventh-placed finish in the Bundesliga, earning the “Breisgauer” a spot in the Europa League qualifiers. Freiburg promptly lost to Slovenian club NK Domzale, 1:2 on aggregate. In the past, Freiburg has suffered greatly in the Bundesliga when playing in Europe, due to the dreaded “Dreifachbelastung” (Triple commitment of playing in the domestic league, a continental competition, and the domestic cup). So, an early exit from the UEL qualifying rounds was not met with many frowns, especially from manager Christian Streich, who above all else, prefers domestic success over everything.
Despite that top-seven finish in the Bundesliga, Freiburg accrued a negative 18 goal differential during 2016-17 campaign. This is often forgotten due to the squad’s standing in the final league table. It should be noted though, that only Hamburg, Ingolstadt, and Darmstadt had worse goal differentials last season. Hamburg finished 14th, while Ingolstadt and Darmstadt were both directly relegated. There was a lot a of smoke and mirrors regarding Freiburg’s 2016-17 season.
We are only two match days into the new campaign and so far at least, the quick exit from the UEL has not been a benefit to Freiburg. The side has managed one goal in two matches, a draw with Eintracht Frankfurt, and a decisive 1:4 loss to RB Leipzig. The “Breisgau-Brasilianer”, currently sit in 15th place in the Bundesliga, 14 spots below Borussia Dortmund, who currently top the table with two wins, five goals scored, and zero goals conceded. In terms of momentum, there are perhaps no two sides more opposite at the moment than SC Freiburg and Dortmund.
For BVB, the news only continues to improve. The long-awaited return of left-back Marcel Schmelzer is finally upon us. Also returning from injury is Dortmund’s “do-it-all” CDM Julian Weigl, who is set to play for the under-23 team on Saturday, though. It is not indicated by Borussia Dortmund’s point total, but these two have been greatly missed.
What does this mean for the lineup? “Schmelle” will return as the starting left-back which allows Dan-Axel Zagadou to be available as a substitute at his natural position of central defender.
The biggest surprise so far this season has been the consistency of the Dortmund back four. We have always known they were capable of great defending, yet, there was seemingly always a 10 to 15 minute period in each match last season, when the back line looked extremely vulnerable. This has not been the case so far in 2017-18. Sokratis, Marc Bartra, Lukasz Piszczek and newcomer Dan-Axel Zagadou have been extremely effective through two matches. Combine this with great play from Nuri Sahin and Gonzalo Castro as “double 6’s,” and it is safe to say Dortmund has found, at least for the short-term, a winning formula in defence.
The attack will once again feature American sensation Christian Pulisic and Maxi Philipp on the wings, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the lone striker. Mario Götze’s form only continues to improve as each week passes. He will again find himself as the architect of the offence from his usual CAM spot.
Prediction: In my opinion, even having been eliminated early from European competition, Freiburg simply did not do enough during the transfer window to replace Vincenzo Grifo and Maxi Philipp. Their attack is meager at best, and their back line was exposed during the second half of their match against RB Leipzig. I fear for their survival in the Bundesliga this season.
BVB’s offensive assault should continue as Freiburg is ill-equipped to withstand the constant pressure from “Die Schwarzgelben” over the course of 90 minutes. Eventually the dam will break, and when it does, expect the goals to flow through.
Although Freiburg manager Christian Streich prefers an attack-heavy style of football, in my mind they simply lack the quality to seriously challenge Dortmund’s back line.
Lastly, Freiburg are the absolute favourite opponents of BVB, who have won a whopping 12 meetings in a row. A club record and only two shy of the Bundesliga record (which, incidentally, is an ongoing series of wins by Bayern Munich over Werder Bremen).
Borussia Dortmund 3 : 0 SC Freiburg
Dortmund: Bürki – Piszczek, Bartra, Sokratis, Schmelzer – Götze, Şahin, Castro – Pulisic, Philipp, Aubameyang
Coach: Peter Bosz
SC Freiburg: Schwolow – Lienhart, Schuster, Söyüncü – Stenzel, Günter – Abrashi, Frantz – Haberer, Ravet – Niederlechner
Coach: Christian Streich