Germany: Bundesliga
3 - 2
(2 - 0)
V. Grifo (7), V. Grifo (44), N. Schlotterbeck (87)
M. Kruse (52), M. Arnold (84)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Streich prepares to welcome returning trio, Kohfeldt gives update on Lukas Nmecha

Trainers Christian Streich of SC Freiburg and Florian Kohfeldt of VfL Wolfsburg both answered pertinent questions ahead of one of the weekend's most highly anticipated duels during their final pre-match pressers.
As Germany's green company team prepares for a visit to Freiburg on Saturday, VfL Wolfsburg trainer Florian Kohfeldt had to answer questions about his head-coaching predecessor Mark van Bommel at his final pre-match press conference on Thursday. After all, van Bommel got the axe following the 0-2 defeat to the Breisguaer in the reverse fixture.

Kohfeldt remained calm, knowing that he had no such worries. The 39-year-old has finally gotten one of the 2021/22 German Bundesliga's biggest disappointments back on something of a good path. With three wins from the last five fixtures, Wolfsburg lie in 12th place, eight points clear of the relegation zone.

The VfL gaffer can also draw on practically the full complement of his team. Apart from the injured Paulo Otavio, William Furtado, and Micky van de Ven, Kohfeldt has all of his actors at his disposal on Saturday. The three injured defenders make no dent in the plethora of attacking options Kohfeldt can call upon.

The VfL head-coach nevertheless expressed concern about facing the best defensive team in the league. Christian Streich's Freiburg have conceded fewer goals (27) than any other Bundesliga squad this year. Kohfeldt described how his team could fall back into the trap of looking offensively anemic once again.

"If we win the ball too deep, then it will be difficult," Kohfeldt noted, "The Freiburgers are simply too diligent and orderly. They work extremely hard at closing down the spaces. They'll make it hard for us to score a goal."

Three of Kohfeldt's attackers are actually former Freiburg players. Maximilian Philipp began his career in earnest at the SCF youth academy. Max Kruse suited up for the Breisgauer during the 2012/13 campaign. Luca Waldschmidt donned the red-and-black stripes for two years before moving to Benfica at the beginning of the 2020/21 campaign.

At his own press conference on Friday, Freiburg gaffer Streich spoke on the career trajectory of that trio.

"They were top players who left us because of their quality," Streich said when discussing them, "I wish for them that they remain healthy and play good football. As guests this week, I'm sure they'll behave appropriately."

Journeyman Kruse will be facing one of his old clubs for the third consecutive match. The shock transfer of the January window, having helped his new club earn points over Gladbach and Union, now hopes to help the VfL distance itself further from the relegation pack against another old flame.

"I hope he's not the difference maker against us," Streich, continuing his pejorative thread of hoping that Kruse, Philipp, and Waldschmidt would act as 'restrained guests', "That would be fine with me."

Still in the hunt for Europe, a home win against Wolfsburg would prove an incredible boost for sixth-placed Freiburg. There are other landmarks at stake on Saturday. A win would pull Streich even with legendary former SCF trainer Volker Finke on the all-time club win list. Finke--who helmed the Breisgauer from 1991 to 2007--racked up 104 wins in the top flight. Streich--in office since 2011--has 103.

A 12th win in the current campaign would equal the number of wins the BaWü club achieved last season, in which they finished 10th. Throughout the course of the current campaign, Streich's team has remained in one of the international qualification places in the table.

The Sport Club trainer didn't care much for discussing the goal of qualifying for Europe next year.

"Many set lofty goals," he noted, "But the wording itself usually swells the throat and makes it hard to swallow. We certainly won't do that. Our sole objective is to work hard every week and kick as well as we can."

Some inconclusive COVID tests may render that simple task difficult for the hosting club. The availability of Nico Schlotterbeck and Kevin Schade stands in doubt after the defensive lynchpin and reliable offensive spark both returned conflicting positive/negative tests on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Wolfsburg's injury list continues to clear. Kohfeldt made a point of saying that he was satisfied with striker Lukas Nmecha's return off the bench last week. The 23-year-old made his first squad since incurring an ankle injury in December.

The German national team forward played 26 minutes in relief. His head-coach made clear that he planned to use him for a longer spell this weekend, though a start seemed out of the question.

"You could see that he was able to make an impact against Union," Kohfeldt said, "We nevertheless want to re-introduce him cleanly. There are certainly more minutes in him, but whether it's good enough for the starting XI yet is a big question mark."

Match days

Long reads

Exclusive interviews

Team News

Bundesliga - Bochum - HeidenheimBundesliga - FC Bayern - FC KölnBundesliga - Gladbach - DortmundBundesliga - Mainz 05 - HoffenheimBundesliga - RB Leipzig - WolfsburgBundesliga - Stuttgart - Frankfurt