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After Hoffenheim Comes Heidenheim

Union Looking to Make it Three on the Bounce

Fri, 23. February 2024
After Hoffenheim Comes Heidenheim

Next Saturday, 24.02.2024, 1. FC Union Berlin will host 1. FC Heidenheim 1846 for the 23rd match in the Bundesliga season. Kick off in the Stadion An der Alten Försterei is at 15:30

The lie of the land

Heidenheim have been, for many, the surprise package of the season (their first in the Bundesliga) so far. Though they lost 2-1 to league leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen last weekend, before that they were unbeaten in eight games (four wins, four draws) and are currently sitting pretty in 10th place.

This is in some ways due to the performances of their front three of the Bremen loanee, Eren Dinkçi (eight goals), Tim Kleindienst (nine goals) and Jan-Niklas Beste (six goals and eleven assists, the latter scoring a once-in-a-lifetime free kick the first leg to secure their 1-0 win over Union in the corresponding fixture last year.

Union, meanwhile, find themselves also in a good mood, coming into the game off the back of two wins in a row, the 1-0 victories over Wolfsburg at home and Hoffenheim away. They are unbeaten in five Bundesliga matches at Stadion An der Alten Försterei.

The opponents

Heidenheim's success story goes back almost 20 years. In the 2007/08 season, they were still playing in the Oberliga Baden-Württemberg when Frank Schmidt, who has since become a legend in Heidenheim, took over the team. In 2019/20, they had their first chance to qualify for the Bundesliga, but in the relegation play-off, they drew 0-0 and 2-2 against SV Werder Bremen, who stayed in the league thanks to the away goals rule and kept the East Baden team dreaming of promotion. Three seasons later, the time had come and this time they didn’t need the play-off to manage promotion, winning the 2. Liga outright in 2022/23. Schmidt, needless to say, is still in charge.  

Heidenheim have taken 27 points from 22 matches in their inaugural Bundesliga season, with seven wins, six draws and nine defeats. They have conceded 38 goals and scored 31. 

In the DFB Pokal things didn’t run quite as smoothly, their 8-0 first round win over Rostocker FC being balanced out by their second round exit after a 3-1 loss at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach.

The reunion

Saturday will of course see the return of Lennard Maloney to Köpenick. Born in Berlin, he joined 1. FC Union Berlin in 2012 progressed through all the youth age groups and was made captain of the U17 and U19 teams in the 2015/16 to 2017/18 seasons. He made his first professional appearance for Union on matchday 28 of the 2017/18 Bundesliga 2 season against Greuther Fürth. In 2022, after spells at Chemnitz and Dortmund II, he moved to 1. FC Heidenheim and was a significant help in their run towards promotion. He has started all 22 games this season.

The head to head

Union have played Heidenheim 13 times so far, ten of them in the 2. Liga and twice in the Cup. In total, Union have won four matches to Heidenheim’s seven. There have been two draws, with one cup victory a-piece.

The personnel

Head coach Nenad Bjelica will be without Kevin Volland due to suspension. Diogo Leite also picked up a fifth yellow card in the win against Hoffenheim and will therefore also have to sit out Saturday’s game.

The coaches’ views ahead of the game

"After two wins, the mood in the team has risen and work is naturally more fun,” said Union’s head coach, Nenad Bjelica, during his press conference on Thursday afternoon. “We want to continue our winning streak against an difficult opponent. They have played very well last and this year, so a big compliment to Frank Schmidt and his team. We have to show our passion, our commitment, our aggression and play at our top level to win this duel."

Schmidt, meanwhile, had this to say of his side’s chances on Saturday:"Union are a team that are very compact defensively and defend intensively. They have a good transition game and a lot of quick, lively players. They also play long balls out of defence from time to time. We have to be prepared for that. [...] It will be important that we make some good tackles, make few mistakes and use our spaces well. We have to play to our maximum, then we have a chance of taking something worthwhile from Berlin."

Service information

As usual, the gates of the Stadion An der Alten Försterei will open two hours before kick-off. All home sections are sold out. As the S-Bahn service is interrupted, Union will supplement the existing rail replacement service with shuttle buses. More information can be found here. Please also note that Hämmerlingstraße is closed to traffic.

The match will be broadcast live on Sky and there will also be an audio stream on rbb24 Inforadio and rbb24. As usual, Union will also provide information about the match via the club's own live ticker, as well as in English and Spanish on Twitter.