SC Freiburg will take on RB Leipzig in the first leg of their DFB Pokal semi-final at the Europa-Park Stadion.

SC Freiburg will have revenge on their minds when they welcome RB Leipzig to the Europa-Park Stadion for the DFB Pokal semi-final first leg on Tuesday night.

The defending champions go into the tie as red-hot favourites in what is a repeat of last season’s showpiece event. Freiburg will hope they can pay back Leipzig in kind and come away with a lead to defend going into the second leg.

Christian Streich’s side qualified for the last four after upsetting Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals. They will have their tails up on the night and will be keen to go all the way. Should they go all the way, it will be Freiburg’s first major top-level trophy in their 119-year history.

Leipzig have a good shot at defending their title having defeated another heavyweight, Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-final.  Marco Rose’s men hold the tag of favourites for the trophy and the onus will be on them to deliver.

Leipzig are unbeaten in ten Pokal games since losing the 2021 final and are in line to make a third consecutive final appearance in the competition. Their defence has been particularly stalwart, having conceded just one time so far.

With both teams also involved in the fight for fourth place, the fixture has some added spice to it. Freiburg are ahead of Leipzig in the league standings and will be keen to inflict a morale crusher on their arch-rivals.

With the teams set to face another over three straight games in both the cup and the league, there is no better time than now for the Breisgau-Brasilianer to assert their superiority. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

SC Freiburg

Freiburg have a poor recent record against RB Leipzig are winless in their last seven games against them. They lost the Bundesliga encounter 3-1 in November and will be out to top the scales in their favour.

They will have to do so without attacking midfielder Daniel Kofi-Kyereh, who has not played for the club since February. Manuel Gulde, the hero against Bayern is also out, handing Streich another blow to contend with. Mark Flekken should start in goal. The reserve showstopper will be the last line of defence in the home team’s 4-2-2-2 formation.

He will be protected by the backline of Kiliann Sildillia, Matthias Ginter, Philipp Lienhart and Christian Gunter. With the midfield and attack playing narrow, the onus will be on the Freiburg full-backs to provide the width.

Maximilian Eggestein and Nicolas Hofler will function as a double pivot, keeping the formation intact as Ritsu Doan and Vincenzo Grifo are deployed as mobile attacking midfielders. The duo’s ability to stretch the opposition’s defence should open up space for Michael Gregoritsch and Lucas Holer to make the difference up front.

Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Flekken; Sildillia, Ginter, Lienhart, Gunter; Hofler, Eggestein; Doan, Grifo; Gregoritsch, Holer

RB Leipzig

Marco Rose’s side have a third straight final in their sights and will be keen to defend the trophy they won last year. The last time a side not named Bayern Munich defended the title successfully was when FC Schalke 04 did so in 2001 and 2002.

Peter Gulacsi is still out injured, meaning Janis Blaswich should start in the Leipzig goal. The champions were boosted by the return of Christopher Nkunku, who scored against TSG Hoffenheim at the weekend.

The Chelsea-bound Frenchman was the one to break Freiburg’s hearts in last season’s final when the underdogs were a mere 14 minutes away from glory. His return will add to Leipzig’s mobile frontline, giving them yet another goalscoring angle.

Rose is likely to go with a 3-4-2-1 formation, with Blaswich acting as the last line of defence. He will be protected by the back three of Lukas Klostermann, Willi Orban and Josko Gvardiol. The trio will be expected to maintain a narrow line, allowing Mohamed Simakan and David Raum to push forward on the flanks.

The duo will be further boosted by the presence of Konrad Laimer and Kevin Kampl in the middle of the park. The duo will be tasked with winning the midfield battle and keeping the ball ticking. 

Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg will act as dual number tens with Christopher Nkunku leading the line. Werner will also push forward when space opens up, adding another dimension to the Leipzig attack. 

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Blaswich; Klostermann, Orban, Gvardiol; Simakan, Kampl, Laimer, Raum; Forsberg, Werner; Nkunku

Key Stats

  • Freiburg have never won a single major trophy in their 119 years of existence.
  • Last season’s runners-up spot was Freiburg’s best-ever finish in the DFB Pokal.
  • RB Leipzig could become the first team that is not Bayern Munich to retain the title since Schalke in 2002.
  • RB Leipzig have conceded just one goal in the DFB Pokal this season, scoring 17 in the process.
  • No Freiburg player has scored more than one goal in this season’s cup campaign.

Player to Watch

Christopher Nkunku

RB Leipzig attacker Christopher Nkunku. (Photo by Steffen Prößdorf/Wikimedia)

The Frenchman made his long-awaited return from injury recently and went on to score the winner on the night against Hoffenheim at the weekend. His importance to the visitors cannot be understated as Nkunku is still their top scorer despite missing five months of action thanks to an injury. 

The 25-year-old will leave for Chelsea in the summer and will want to end his time in Leipzig on a high. The next three games are crucial for the club’s ambitions this season and all happen to be against Freiburg. Nukunku will have a big say in exactly how the triple header turns out. 


SC Freiburg 1-1 RB Leipzig

Both sides are unlikely to go gung ho and will adopt a safety-first approach in the first leg.  Nkunku’s return hands Leipzig an advantage but Freiburg at home can be a difficult opponent on their day. The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-1 draw between two teams who will be well acquainted with each other by the time the second leg rolls around. 

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