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Preview: Freiburg vs. Bayer Leverkusen - prediction, team news, lineups
19/12/2021 15:53:54

Two of the sides chasing European football in the Bundesliga go head to head on Sunday, with Freiburg hosting Bayer Leverkusen at the Europa-Park Stadion.

The hosts are still in the midst of their best start to a campaign in 11 years despite a recent dip in form, whilst the visitors are looking to recover from a poor week that saw them let a two-goal lead slip twice in the space of four days.

We say: Freiburg 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen

These two sides head into their clash on Sunday in similar runs of form, as well as similar positions in terms of quality displayed this season so far.

For this reason, we are predicting a draw at the Europa-Park Stadion, in what is sure to be a tight encounter.

Match preview

Freiburg boss Christian Streich will be frustrated by the impact that his side's narrow 2-1 defeat at leaders Bayern Munich back at the start of November has had on his side.

Sunday's hosts headed into that encounter at the Allianz Arena as the only unbeaten side left in the division during their best-ever start to a Bundesliga campaign, and whilst they pushed the champions the whole way in a spirited display, results since have taken a turn for the worse.

The Black Forest club do remain in fifth place heading into the final matchday before Germany's winter break at the weekend, but three further defeats since, and just one win in their last six games overall, means that the early season momentum and hopes of an incredible achievement of reaching the Champions League have been dented.

Following a hard-fought point at a strong Union Berlin side in midweek, however, Freiburg do remain just a single point off Hoffenheim in fourth place, as well as two points off their opponents in third, meaning victory on Sunday will lift them back into the top four over Christmas.

The goalless draw was far from dull in the capital, with both sides guilty of missing some excellent opportunities, but Freiburg's division-best defence was solid and stubborn once more to earn an impressive point against a side boasting plenty of success at home.

With defeats in successive games in front of their own supporters at their new stadium, an improved performance will be expected of Streich's side in order to sign off a successful calendar year in style.

Meanwhile, Leverkusen's last week could have been far more positive had Gerardo Seoane's side possessed the level of game management ability required to kill off games from winning positions.

The 2-2 draw with fourth-placed Hoffenheim at the BayArena on Wednesday is hardly a poor result, but after Patrik Schick's double had given Die Werkself a comfortable lead heading into the final 10 minutes, it is certainly a huge disappointment under the circumstances.

In addition, a thumping 5-2 loss at another European-hopeful side in the form of Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend means Leverkusen have lost ground on Bayern and Borussia Dortmund in the top two.

Schick had netted another brace during that clash as well, which has taken his tally for the season to an incredible return of 16 goals in 13 league appearances already, but despite the Czech Republic international's best efforts, his teammates failed to make their commanding position count.

With a host of European-chasing sides building up behind Leverkusen in the table, Seoane and his team will be eager to solidify their Champions League spot by picking up a positive result on Sunday to take into the winter break.

Team News

The absence of Manuel Gulde in Berlin in midweek meant a rare alteration was required to Freiburg's settled back three, with Keven Schlotterbeck being handed his first start of the season alongside brother Nico Schlotterbeck and Philipp Lienhart.

Gulde is labelled as a doubt for Sunday as well, so the same defence could be required for the visit of Leverkusen.

Jonathan Schmid remains a long-term absentee, whilst Yannik Keitel is also out until the new year, in what could be another unchanged lineup named by Streich.

As for the visitors, a vital component of their forward line in the form of Moussa Diaby will be unavailable for the trip to Freiburg, with the Frenchman ruled out through a one-match suspension.

Jeremie Frimpong should come straight back into his right full-back role on Sunday though, after he missed the visit of Hoffenheim in midweek due to the same reason.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Julian Baumgartlinger remain out with long-term knee injuries despite nearing returns, whilst Mitchel Bakker is also expected to miss out due to an ankle injury.

Freiburg possible starting lineup:

Flekken; Lienhart, K Schlotterbeck, N Schlotterbeck; Kubler, Eggestein, Hofler, Gunter; Jeong, Holer, Grifo

Bayer Leverkusen possible starting lineup:

Hradecky; Frimpong, Tah, Tapsoba, Hincapie; Andrich, Demirbay; Bellarabi, Wirtz, Adli; Schick

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