Dominik Frieser feared he would miss the play-offs when he hurt his hamstring last month but is delighted to be back for the semi-finals against Swansea City.
The 27-year-old Austrian forward suffered a hamstring injury at Huddersfield Town on April 21 and missed two games before returning as a substitute in Saturday’s 2-2 final day draw with Norwich City. Frieser told the Chronicle: “I was worried I might miss the play-offs. It was a bad time to get an injury. But I was back faster than the physios expected. I could have played a week before, at Preston, but we didn’t want to take risks.
“Our physios are very good, we haven’t had any big injuries. It was a big motivation for me to get back and play in the play-offs. It was very important to play in the last league game and see if I felt an injury. I felt nothing, I could sprint and everything was fine.”
Frieser, who has scored three goals in 48 Reds games, will be competing for a place as one of the wide forwards in a front three against the likes of Carlton Morris and Conor Chaplin.
Valerien Ismael has rotated his forwards regularly all season.
“It’s good for us that we have six really good forward players and we can change it every time. If you play against a team who plays more passing football, you need more pressing players. If you play against teams like Birmingham or Wycombe, you need the physical lads. Swansea can do both. I think in the first leg, our pitch is not the best, so they will play long balls and maybe in the second leg they will play more football.”
Frieser says he has improved throughout the season, with the help of extra work in the gym.
“When I came here, I was a little bit surprised that the football is much much harder. It’s more fighting than playing on the ground. In the last two months, I have done more in the gym and I made my best games in the last two months.”
Should they defeat Swansea in the semi-final, the Reds will play in the final at Wembley on May 29.
Frieser said: “Now we are here, my goal is to get to Wembley. We are not in the semi-final to lose. It would be a pleasure to play there.”
Frieser is looking forward to playing in front of fans for the first time.
He said: “For me, it’s a big motivation. It’s my first time I play in front of fans in England. The stadium is not full but, after a year, 4,500 will seem like 30,000. They can give us a push when we need it. It’s nearly one of the biggest games of my career. I played in the Champions League qualification and against Manchester United in the Europa League. But this is a chance to get to the Premier League.
“I think we have the best story of all the teams in the play-offs. The other teams have more pressure because they have to go the Premier League.
“We can play with freedom.”