Bayern Munich face their biggest Bundesliga test of the season this weekend, but it’s not Borussia Dortmund or RB Leipzig. Forget them entirely, as SC Freiburg are literally Germany’s team to beat.
The minnows are the only team left in Germany’s top flight yet to lose a match in the current campaign. In fact, only Liverpool, Napoli and AC Milan share Freiburg’s unbeaten status across Europe’s top divisions this season.
The club from the Black Forest sit third in the Bundesliga, three points off leaders and perennial champions Bayern at the summit, which is not bad doing for a side with the second-lowest wage budget in the division.
SC Freiburg are the team to beat in the Bundesliga this season with no losses so far this season
Freiburg take on leaders Bayern Munich on Saturday looking to move level on points with them
Freiburg spend just £12million on their whole squad’s salaries each season, which is less than what Bayern pay their entire team over a month. Yet by Saturday afternoon, they could be level on points with the best team in Germany.
Beating Bayern will be no easy feat, especially given the fact the reigning champions have scored 23 goals in their last six matches, but Freiburg have every reason to be confident.
The minnows have the best defence in the league, conceding just seven goals in ten matches so far this season. It is the main reason why they remain unbeaten, having taken points off Leipzig and Dortmund during the opening weeks of the season.
No wonder their fans instructed their team to ‘take Bayern’s Lederhosens’ off last week as they prepare to stun the champions this weekend.
Freiburg have the best defence in the Bundesliga with just seven goals conceded so far
Freiburg have already beaten Dortmund this season and are looking to cause another upset
Leading the team is manager Christian Streich, who is not only the longest-serving manager in the German top-flight but is also one of the most charismatic figures in European football.
The 56-year-old has been at the club since 1995, taking on various youth coach roles before being appointed to manage the first team in 2011 – and his passion for Freiburg is clear to see.
Streich, who grew up in his father’s butcher shop and is a qualified history teacher, cycles into the training ground and stadium every single day to meet his ‘family and friends’ at the club, and describes his role as a real ‘privilege’.
When the club waved goodbye to its Dreisamstadion ground earlier this year, an iconic venue that was on most German football fans’ bucket list, the Freiburg boss was reduced to tears and jumped into the stands to lead his ultras and supporters in song.
Freiburg’s manager is the charismatic Christian Streich who is Germany’s longest-serving boss
His touchline antics are clear to see most weeks but the 56-year-old has caused some fireworks down the years. In 2019, he collided with Frankfurt captain David Abraham which sparked an almighty melee.
Streich was accused by some quarters of German football of making the most of the collision, while Abraham earned himself a seven-week ban and a £21,500 fine.
But while the Freiburg coach is an eye-catching sight on the touchline, it’s in his press conferences and interviews where he really shines through.
Streich has used his meetings with the press to highlight several social issues down the years, including care workers and, more recently, rights over the coronavirus vaccine.
Streich is known for his touchline antics and memorable press conferences on social issues
He even took time in his press conference to give his support for Angela Merkel welcoming a large group of refugees during the 2015 crisis, promoting ideas about ‘reducing the fears of strangers’ and ‘getting to know other ways of thinking.’
Streich comes across as a very traditional human being. His first major TV interview saw him describe himself as a ‘normal guy’.
‘I’m not exactly your ideal marketing product,’ he said in 2011. ‘No tattoos, no piercings.’
This traditional attitude is why the Freiburg manager despises modern football so much. When Neymar moved to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona for nearly £200m in 2017, it provoked one of Streich’s most angry press conferences to date.
‘The god of money is getting bigger and bigger,’ the philosophical Streich said.
Streich is firmly against modern football and complained about Neymar’s £200m PSG move
‘Eventually it will devour everything. But most people will only notice when everything has been devoured.
‘I don’t know how people who have nothing feel when they read this, whether there will be frustration. I don’t know whether it is good for our democratic order.
‘I think it is not good. But I will not prevent it. We are in the unreal realm, but it is a reality right now.’
He even took issue with modern society making too much out of Cristiano Ronaldo’s muscles, claiming that young players are drawing the wrong conclusions by thinking that physique can bring success.
‘Cristiano Ronaldo likes to show his beautiful muscles,’ Streich said in 2017. ‘Because he has nice muscles. He’s trained these muscles.
‘The problem is that the young players see the oiled muscles in newspapers. And they think this is a showman. But that’s not a showman, it’s the opposite.
Streich has also complained about how Cristiano Ronaldo’s body is used in modern society
‘Of course he (Ronaldo) celebrates it, but he has worked it all out. And that’s where the wrong conclusions are drawn, and that’s the problem.’
On the pitch, Streich has done remarkably well to keep Freiburg as a competitive team, despite the fact the German minnows tend to lose their best players each season to the higher reputation teams.
The Bundesliga club have lost the likes of Caglar Soyuncu and Robin Koch to Premier League sides Leicester City and Leeds.
Luca Waldschmidt jumped ship to Benfica last year while Maximilian Philipp, Admir Mehmedi and Matthias Ginter have all been moved on in recent years.
But Streich and the Freiburg board make up for it by astute and cheap signings, who go on to become important players for the team.
Freiburg sell their best players each season, including Caglar Soyuncu (right) to Leicester
The likes of Maximilian Eggestein, Rolland Sallai and all-time record goalscorer Nils Petersen were all signed for under £5m and are big stars. This season’s joint-top scorers Lucas Holer and Woo-yeong Jeong were even snapped for less than £3m each.
The latter was let go by Bayern Munich after several seasons in the club’s B team in the third division – no-one will want to find the net more on Saturday afternoon than the South Korean forward.
Meanwhile, there is a local feel to this Freiburg team as well, with 12 out of the 26 players in the first-team squad stemming from the club’s academy, including long-term captain Christian Gunter who is closing in on 300 appearances for the team.
Streich and all that he brings has been so popular in the game that Bayern nearly hired him in 2018. Bayern chief Uli Hoeness enquired about him to Freiburg president Fritz Keller, but the German giants went for Niko Kovac instead.
Striker Woo-yeong Jeong will be desperate to find the net against former club Bayern this week
Freiburg have recently moved into a new 35,000-seater stadium as the club looks upwards
Instead, Streich is a cult hero in Freiburg and there was no better man to take the club into a new era when the German side moved into their new 35,000 stadium this season.
Historically, Freiburg are a club known for bouncing between Germany’s first and second division, with the odd European group stage campaign every now and again.
‘We go down, we go up, we go into the UEFA Cup!’ was a common chant during the 1990s.
Beat Bayern on Saturday and they can start dreaming of changing those lyrics to the Champions League.