Week two of the Bundesliga’s midseason restart continues on Saturday afternoon, as SC Freiburg hosts SV Werder Bremen at the Schwarzwald-Stadion.
Things went quite well for the league last weekend, and even though supporters aren’t allowed to return to the stands just yet, fans across the planet are happy enough just to see games on TV.
For the teams themselves, last week was a chance for players and coaches to get back to match fitness. It certainly felt like the opening weekend of the season at times, with misplaced passes and defensive errors all over the place. Everyone’s got some minutes under their legs now, so play should improve.
Freiburg picked up a solid result on their return, drawing away to 4th placed RB Leipzig. They managed to even take the lead in the 34th minute, as Manuel Gulde flicked on a corner from Vincenzo Grifo. It was a bit of a flukey goal, admittedly, but it still counted.
Freiburg defended well, and goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow made some solid saves, but they eventually conceded an equalizer. Kevin Kampl whipped in an excellent cross into the area and picked out Yussuf Poulsen, who rose highest to head home from close range.
The game would not end without some controversy, as Freiburg thought they had scored a late winner in stoppage time when Robin Koch slammed a shot into the back of the net. However, a VAR review would decide that a player was offside in the build up, so the goal was taken off the board.
Nonetheless, getting a point against a Champions League side is still a solid way to return for Freiburg.
However, things could not have been any more different for Bremen, who were smashed 4-1 at home against Bayer Leverkusen.
The game burst into life at the half hour mark, as Kai Havertz scored a header to give his team the lead. Bremen equalized moments later through Theodor Gebre Selassie, but Havertz would find the back of the net once again after a few minutes to restore Leverkusen’s advantage.
That goal would kill off Bremen, who’s heads dropped. They stopped trying, and Leverkusen capitalized, putting the game to bed with relative ease.
Mitchell Weiser headed home from close range in the 61st minute, and substitute Kerem Demirbay made it four with about ten minutes to go.
The result put Bremen even deeper into the relegation zone, as they now sit five points behind Fortuna Dusseldorf in the race for the relegation playoff spot.
Last time out
It’s been close to seven months since these two sides last faced off, with that matchup taking place at the Weserstadion.
Bremen would open the scoring within 10 minutes, as Milot Rashica got past the defense before opening up his hips and curling a shot into the far corner.
Freiburg thought they had tied things up when Roland Sallai headed home from a set-piece, but a VAR review spotted a foul committed in the area, so the goal was wiped off the board.
They would eventually equalize at the half hour mark courtesy of a mistake from Bremen goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka, who butchered an attempted clearance. The ball fell to Nils Petersen, who calmly passed it into the back of an empty net.
The home side would retake the lead in the 59th minute through Gebre Selassie, who got on the end of a cross from Rashica to head the ball into the bottom corner. Things would get even better for Bremen, as the visitors went down to 10 men after Janik Haberer was shown a second yellow card with a few minutes to go.
However, they could not hold on to secure the win, as Freiburg snatched a point in the dying minutes. It was Petersen once again getting the job done, as he managed to squeeze a header off Pavlenka and into the back of the net.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Bremen, and the game as a whole sums up their season quite well.
Freiburg only have one major injury concern going into the contest, as defender Lukas Kubler is still dealing with a knee injury that has sidelined him since October.
The good news is they might have a key player make his return to the team this weekend, as Frenchman Yoric Ravet is only listed as doubtful at the moment, and could feature off the bench in a limited capacity.
Bremen know they’ll have a vital player back, as Davy Klaassen is available once again after being suspended for last week's game against Leverkusen.
They’ve got a much lengthier injury list, however, as they’ll likely be without Kevin Mohwald, Claudio Pizarro, Omer Toprak, and Niclas Fullkrug.
There is a chance left back Ludwig Augustinsson will be available for selection, but it’s unclear if he’s fully recovered from a muscle injury.
SC Freiburg: Schwolow, Gulde, Leinhart, Heintz, Schmid, Hofler, Koch, Gunter, Sallai, Petersen, Grifo
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Gebre Selassie, Vogt, Moisander, Lang, M. Eggestein, Klaassen, Bargfrede, J. Eggestein, Selke, Rashica
What to watch for
Will Bremen finally get it together?
Everyone knows how talented this Bremen team is. However, there’s a reason why they sit so far down in the league standings, as they just haven’t managed to put all that talent together.
Will this be the game where the pieces finally fall into place, kickstarting a fight for survival in the process, or will the Green-Whites fall flat once again?
When things are going well, they’re quite dangerous going forward, with the likes of Rashica and Klaassen able to run riot against opposing defenses. The problem is that doesn’t happen too often, as Bremen usually struggle to put a few passes together up the field.
The situation is even worse at the back, even though they have one of the league's best goalkeepers in Pavlenka. He can’t save everything, unfortunately, as he tends to face a number of shots from close range. Bremen are lacking a true defensive leader, so everyone needs to step up if they want to stop themselves from conceding time and time again.
If Bremen are going to have any hope of staying up, they’ll need to get a result against Freiburg. They’ve only got nine games left, and the remaining schedule doesn’t get any easier.
If they don’t, it might be time to say goodbye to the Bundesliga.