1. FC Union Berlin will host TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Saturday, 21.01.2023 in the 16th matchday of the current Bundesliga season. Kick off in the Stadion An der Alten Försterei is at 15:30.
The starting position
Union re-start their top-flight routine after an unusually long winter break that dragged on from mid-November until well into January due to the World Cup. But they’ve been busy with the time, getting ready for 2023, with a winter training camp in Spain completed, as well as six wins from six friendlies for Urs Fischer’s side.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim are currently sat in eleventh in the Bundesliga with 18 points from 15 matches, just four points ahead of 16th place and the dreaded relegation play-off spot. And all when they’d started so strongly, with four wins in the first six matches put them as high as fourth, a position they’d return to after their convincing 3-0 win away over Schalke. But their form slumped and they haven’t won since then. Hoffenheim have now lost four of the last five games, with only the crumbs of a single point falling from the table in Cologne to sustain them.
André Breitenreiter, a former coach of Urs Fischer’s Alma Mata FC Zurich, who has been on the sidelines in Sinsheim since taking over in the summer of 2022, has, like Fischer, been an advocate of the three-man defence this season. It’s ahead of them that he likes to try his variations, be it in a 3-5-2, a 3-4-2-1, or 3-4-1-2.
One thing is sure, we can look forward to a duel on Saturday with a lot of attacks from the wings, and presumably a lot of crosses. For Union are just ahead of Hoffenheim as the team with the most goals from headers (eight and six goals respectively), while the guests have scored the most goals from crosses with seven. One ahead of Union’s six.
The head to head
Of their six meetings in the Bundesliga so far, Hoffenheim started off well, winning the first two, but this was followed by two draws and two Union victories. The winning goal in the last of these, a 2-1 victory was scored by Grischa Prömel (of whom more will come in the next paragraph)
Yes, Prömel was a deeply beloved Union player, but he moved to TSG last summer at the end of his contract. After 141 games for Union spread over five seasons, the Stuttgart-born player moved back to the club that helped him make the leap into professional football. He will not be available to take the pitch on saturday, however, being still on his way back from injury.
Fischer will have to do without a total of five players for the first Bundesliga match in 2023: Diogo Leite is missing due to one match suspension, and András Schäfer and Morten Thorsby are still out due to their injuries. In addition, Jérôme Roussillon and Sven Michel are not an option for the squad.
The coaches’ views ahead of game
For Urs Fischer, it is especially important to start well: "Hoffenheim are a strong team that always find solutions with the ball, they flood the middle and then will attack on the outside. They are the team with the most crosses. Above all, we have to rely upon our basics and find our rhythm. For this task, you have to play to your maximum for 90 minutes."
For Hoffenheim's Breitenreiter, the tricky run that Unioin were on before the winter break does not diminish their qualities: "Every team is starting from zero, and Union will approach the game positively. The negative results before the break no longer matter. Union are very compact and press very aggressively. They are also extremely dangerous with high balls.”
The stadium An der Alten Försterei opens at 13:30. The home section is completely sold out. The match will be broadcast live on Sky and, as usual, Union will also provide information on the match in the club's own live ticker as well as on twitter in English.