1. FC Union Berlin travel to play VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday, 12.03.2023, in the 24th match of the Bundesliga season. Kick off at the Volkswagen Arena is at 19:30.
The lie of the land
Wolfsburg have been utterly unpredictable this season. Their start was somewhat mixed, with only one win from their first seven games. But then, following the international break at the end of September, they were on fire, picking up 23 points out of a possible 30.
From the middle of October they won six games on the bounce with a goal difference of 22-1, propelling themselves from 12th up to 7th place in the table, allowing the hopes of European competition next year to grow perceptibly. However, the winning streak came to a halt as their form slumped again, their 2-0 win over FC Köln a fortnight ago being their first win in a month.
They are currently in 8th place in the table, but with 34 points they still harbour those European thoughts.
Union, on the other hand, have become a byword for consistency, having still lost only once in 2023, that being the 3-0 defeat in Munich a fortnight ago. While Wolfsburg have sat out all European competition, Union head coach Urs Fischer's team hosted Royale Union Saint-Gilloise on Thursday evening in the first leg of the the Europa League last 16 tie. Union travel hopefully to Anderlecht to play the second leg next week, after coming from behind three times during the furious 3-3 draw at the Alte Försterei
Wolfsburg have only ever beaten Union when playing them at the at the Volkswagen Arena, and, indeed, have done so without conceding even a single goal (they've won 1-0, 3-0 and 2-0). This follows a pattern, the spoils in every one of the last five matches between the sides have gone to the home team. This includes January's DFB Pokal last 16 tie, which Union won 2-1.
VfL goalkeeper Koen Casteels and front man Micky van de Ven have proved themselves undroppable, and are two of only eight players across the whole league to have played every minute of every game so far. Both are absolutely key to the Berlin born coach Niko Kovac's system, as is midfielder and top scorer Yannik Gerhardt (six goals), who will be playing his 200th competitive game for VfL on Sunday.
Captain Maximilian Arnold is suspended for Sunday's match after receiving his 5th yellow card against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Four former Wolves are wearing the Union jersey this season. Robin Knoche, Paul Jaeckel, Paul Seguin and winter newcomer Jérôme Roussillon have made a total of 717 appearances for them.
Apart from Andras Schäfer, the whole Union squad is fit and ready.
The coaches' views ahead of the game
"Games in Wolfsburg are always tough ones, in which small things make the difference,"said Union head coach Urs Fischer in his Saturday afternoon press conference. "VfL are a very strong team that likes to put pressure upon their opponents. They often push up and their transitions are not to be underestimated. Our game on Thursday showed that we have to be careful in such situations. That's why I'm expecting a tough game against a good team tomorrow as well."
Meanwhile Wolfsburg coach Kovac said he sees Union as being a tough opponent and was full of praise for the way Union have developed in recent years: "Against Union it is very difficult to create chances, and you can't make any mistakes against them. Because once they're in front, it's difficult to win against Union. Their development is definitely a pointer to everyone else what you can achieve with good, hard work."
A good 2,700 Unioners will be in attendance in Wolfsburg, there will be no away tickets available on site. Further information on how to get there and for stadium attendance can be found here (in German).
The match will be broadcast live on DAZN and, as usual, Union will also provide information on the match on the club's own live ticker, as well as in English on Twitter. In addition, there will be an audio stream on rbb24 Inforadio and on www.rbb24.de.