Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen meet at Schwarzwald-Stadion this evening, with both sides keen to put recent Bundesliga disappointments behind them.
Christian Streich’s Freiburg have been in the hunt for UEFA Europa League qualification all season, but a run that has seen them win just three of 11 games since the winter break has put their continental ambitions in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, Bayer Leverkusen’s impressive form had seen them lead the charge for UEFA Champions League qualification, until a surprising 1-4 home defeat to Wolfsburg on Tuesday.
Peter Bosz’s Leverkusen were on a run of eight games unbeaten in the German top flight, with seven wins in that run, until Tuesday’s heavy defeat at Bay Arena.
Their previous game to Tuesday’s loss to Wolfsburg was a comprehensive win over Borussia Monchengladbach that had temporarily put them in fourth place, but Monchengladbach’s goalless draw at Werder Bremen now means that Marco Rose’s Gladbach are now fourth in the standings by goal difference.
Both Freiburg and Leverkusen will be hoping for their star men to inspire them to victory tonight. Freiburg top goalscorer Nils Petersen was back in the goals against Eintracht Frankfurt last time out, ending a run of ten games without a goal that stretched back to January. German international Petersen, who holds the record as the only man to score five goals in a single match for this country, has now scored nine for Freiburg this season.
Meanwhile, Kai Havertz has been in excellent form for Bayer Leverkusen since Bundesliga returned earlier this month. The 20-year-old would have forced his way onto a number of the big European clubs’ summer shopping lists with four goals in three games since the German top flight returned after the Coronavirus suspension.
With just five more Bundesliga fixtures remaining after tonight, there is heightened impetus for both sides to get points here to support their respective European bids. Despite the two sharing the points in the reverse fixture after a 1-1 draw, Leverkusen should have too much for Freiburg this evening.
Home advantage would have previously been a factor, with Leverkusen needing to travel four and a half hours to Freiburg’s picturesque base in Germany’s Black Forest, but with just five home wins from 27 matches since Bundesliga’s restart, the percentage of home wins has fallen from 43% (with fans, pre-COVID) to just 19%.