Key injuries hamper Schalke, Freiburg match

A repeat of last season's dramatic final-day Champions League showdown this weekend pits Schalke against Freiburg with neither club currently latching on to their success from last season.

Schalke's defender Benedikt Hoewedes (L) reacts

These two sides met on the final day of last season with Freiburg needing only a draw to snatch Germany's fourth berth in the Champions League.

They were beaten by Schalke, who have since gone on to qualify for the last 16 of Europe's elite club competition following Wednesday night's 2-0 victory over Basle, while Freiburg were this week eliminated from the Europa League.

On Sunday, the two teams meet again with the Royal Blues currently lying seventh, seven points away from a place in the Champions League again next season, and Freiburg in 16th, just two points above an automatic relegation berth.

Times have changed, but the objectives are the same.

"If we play the way we did against Basle, then I'm sure we'll keep the three points here," said Schalke defender Felipe Santana, who will be deputising the injured and nonetheless suspended Benedikt Howedes in the Gelsenkirchen club's defence.

"With our fans behind us, we want to deliver another super game."

Schalke are also without Germany international midfielder Julian Draxler, who like Howedes has been ruled out until the new year with injury, joining long-term injury absentees Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Kyriakos Papadopoulos on the sidelines.

Freiburg are still without their captain Julian Schuster, although he is on the road to recovery after suffering a stress fracture in his foot at the start of November.

"I wish I could help the team, particularly right now on the field," said the 28-year-old in the Badische Zeitung newspaper.

"But I've just got to accept it one way or the other that I'm not ready yet.

"Instead, I'm trying to play my part in the dressing room, talking to the lads before and after training."

Coach Christian Streich would certainly rather see him on the field of play, however.

"We're missing him a great deal," he said. "He's somebody who always leads by example, no matter how good or how complicated the situation is.

"He's just got a great presence, on the field and off it. I'd like to hope that he'll be back before the winter break, but I think it's improbable."

Without Schuster, Freiburg will nevertheless be looking for only their third win of the season at the Arena AufSchalke.

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