The Bundesliga returns this weekend following a hectic international break, with Saturday serving up an exciting matchup as Freiburg hosts Werder Bremen at Schwarzwald-Stadion.
Freiburg have had an interesting start to the campaign, with a win, a draw, and a loss from their opening three games of the season. Their most recent match was their most disappointing, though, as they were blown out 4-0 by Borussia Dortmund.
Bremen, on the other hand, have recovered following a dreadful opening day defeat to Hertha Berlin. They’ve won two straight since then, and will look for another victory to keep the good times rolling.
It’s unclear what to expect from either side, which is what makes Saturday’s game so compelling.
The international break has helped both teams in terms of players coming back from injury.
Bremen pretty much have a clean bill of health going into the contest, as everyone is available for selection. However, the likes of Milot Rashica, Omer Toprak, and Kevin Mohwald won’t be able to play for the full 90, and will have to be substituted in some regard.
Freiburg are still dealing with a few issues of their own, though. Starting goalkeeper Mark Flekken is out for the foreseeable future, while Janik Haberer has a problem with his ankle, so he won’t be back for a bit either.
Freiburg: Muller, Schmid, Lienhart, Heintz, Günter, Sallai, Santamaria, Höfler, Grifo, Petersen, Höler
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Selassie, Veljkovic, Friedl, Augustinsson, Mbom, Erras, Eggestein, Bittencourt, Sargent, Rashica
Ones to watch
He won’t be able to play the entire game, but Bremen will be happy enough to have star man Milot Rashica back in some capacity.
It’s honestly surprising to see Rashica still with the club. He seemed set to make a big money move away this past summer, but a deal never came together. Undervalued by Europe’s elite, no one matched the relatively fair transfer fee Bremen put on the winger. As a result, he’s staying at the Wohninvest Weserstadion until at least January.
And now, Rashica has something to prove. A knee injury took him out for the first three games of the campaign, but following the international break, he’s finally set to return.
Bremen certainly need him. The team has been lacking a certain spark in the final third, which is something Rashica brings every time he steps on to the pitch. Incredibly dynamic, the Kosovo international uses his pace and dribbling ability to get by defenders, opening up space for himself and teammates. Then, he can either pick out a killer pass or go for goal himself, unleashing shots from distance into the top corner.
Rashica was somewhat disrespected by the rest of the continent this past transfer window, and he’ll be ready to prove those doubters wrong this season. His revenge tour starts on Saturday.
Leading the line for Freiburg is Nils Petersen, who has already scored twice so far this season. If they want to pick up a result this weekend, they’ll likely need him to find the back of the net once again.
Simply knowing where the goal is at all times, Petersen is an old school center forward. He’s not the quickest or the strongest, and he isn’t even that tall. Instead, he uses his attacking intelligence to find space in the box, creating chances for himself and others.
If the German gets service, then it’s all but over, as he is a clinical finisher. The stats back this up, as Petersen has scored nine or more league goals in each of the last six seasons.
Petersen has been mister reliable for Freiburg ever since joining the club, so don’t be surprised to see him add to his ever-increasing goalscoring tally this weekend. He’s even got some extra motivation, as he’ll be up against his former club, who might not know how to stop him
It’s been nearly five months since these two sides last faced off, as they met near the end of last season in a vital contest for both. Against the odds, it would be Bremen who picked up all three points on the afternoon.
The only goal of the contest came after 20 minutes, as the Green-Whites caught Freiburg on the counter. Davy Klaassen set up everything, hitting a first time pass across his body to play the onrushing Leonardo Bittencourt through on goal. He would make no mistake with the finish, slamming a volley into the bottom corner.
There was still plenty of drama in the final moments, though. It started when Bremen had midfielder Philipp Bargfrede sent off after he was shown a second yellow card. Then, Freiburg thought they had equalized, as Manuel Gulde pounced on a loose ball in the area to poke home from close range. However, the goal would be called back, as a VAR review deemed a player to be offside in the buildup.
It was the lucky break Bremen desperately needed, as the win played a huge part in them staying up at the end of the campaign. Unfortunately for Freiburg, it cost them a European spot, as they finished only one point behind Wolfsburg in the race for 7th.
Where to watch
The contest won’t be broadcasted in the UK, but those in the United States can see the game on ESPN+.