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Match Preview: Borussia Dortmund Host European Hopefuls Freiburg

BVB face seventh-placed Freiburg with renewed hope, as several key players returning from injuries and illnesses.

Sport-Club Freiburg v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Sebastian El-Saqqa - firo sportphoto/Getty Images

Having put in one of the performances I’ve seen this season, Borussia Dortmund will be looking to scrub everyone’s brains with a decent effort against Freiburg tomorrow evening. BVB will host Christian Streich’s Freiburg, who currently sit in seventh place in the Bundesliga, and will look to extend their unbeaten run in 2024 to five games.

Freiburg’s form in the Rückrunde has been a relatively mixed bag, with just one win, one draw, and two losses, but they are still in the running for a European qualification spot, trailing sixth-placed Frankfurt by just three points. Combined with the fact they are through to the knockout stages of the Europa League, Freiburg are having a respectable season so far.

West Ham United FC v Sport-Club Freiburg: Group A - UEFA Europa League 2023/24 Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images

Since gaining promotion back to the Bundesliga on their first attempt in 2015/16, Freiburg have cultivated an image as a club that consistently punches well above their weight. The numbers back that up too, as they have outperformed their Transfermarkt market value in all but one season (2017/18) since promotion, and often by quite large margins!

Despite being relative minnows, Christian Streich has turned this Freiburg side into one of the hardest teams to face in the Bundesliga. BVB will have to be at the races if they are going to come away with all three points tomorrow night.

Player to Watch: Vincenzo Grifo

Despite finishing in the top six for the last two seasons, Freiburg’s squad never feels particularly stacked with talent. They don’t have many, if any, standout players, but the Breisgau-Brasilianer are much greater than the sum of their parts. If I’m forced to pick a standout, however, out of my principled respect for the format, it would have to be Vincenzo Grifo.

SV Werder Bremen v Sport-Club Freiburg - Bundesliga Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images

The 30-year-old Italian forward has been a focal point of Freiburg’s offense since returning to the club in 2019 and is averaging 0.496 non-penalty goals + assists per 90 (npG+A/90) in that time. So far this season, Grifo has put up 0.51 npG+A/90, and he is Freiburg’s second top goalscorer (one goal behind Lucas Höler on six goals) and their top creator with seven assists.

Grifo is a solid, hard-working creative force in the final third that can also chip in in other areas of the game. He is a perfect representation of what makes this Freiburg team so good.

Predicted Lineup

After a couple weeks juggling injuries and illnesses at multiple positions, Borussia Dortmund are now approaching what looks like a clean bill of health. Felix Nmecha is still out and Sebastien Haller is still on international duty as Ivory Coast prepares to face Nigeria in the African Cup of Nations final on Sunday, but Edin Terzic has confirmed that Jadon Sancho is close to returning and everyone else is ready to go.

With Julian Brandt and Marco Reus returning to the squad, I think the 4-4-2 will be scrapped in favor of the 4-3-3 they have used recently. I have gone for a much-changed eleven from the Heidenheim draw, bringing Gregor Kobel, Mats Hummels, Emre Can, and Brandt all back into the starting lineup. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a little too ambitious. It’s definitely possible that Terzic won’t want to completely overhaul things, but if everyone is fit, I think the changes are justified.

Given that Sancho is making a late push to be fit for tomorrow’s game, I would be surprised if he gets the start. Therefore, I’d expect Jamie Bynoe-Gittens to get the nod instead, and hopefully, Sancho will be available to come off the bench for the last half hour.

Prediction

Freiburg are never an easy game, and I would expect no different tomorrow either. If all of the returning players find their rhythm immediately I think Dortmund should have enough to get the win, but I’m a little concerned that this won’t be the case. BVB have been unconvincing despite three wins and a single draw since returning from the winter break, so I don’t think they can afford to come into this game behind the pace at all.

I really hope BVB will prove me wrong and the likes of Brandt, Can, and Hummels will all hit the ground running and lift BVB to a win, but I think we will be disappointed come full-time tomorrow night.

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Freiburg

Your Thoughts?

Which of the returning players do you think will get the nod tomorrow?