After successfully reaching the knockout play-offs of the Europa League for the first time with their win against Royale Union Saint-Gilloise on Thursday night, the games just keep coming for 1. FC Union Berlin. Tomorrow, Sunday, 06.11.2022, they return to the day job of the Bundesliga as they travel to face Bayer 04 Levererkusen. Kick off at the BayArena is at 15:30.
If Union are currently writing history at one end of the table, the same is true for the Werkself, if not in the way they they would have either imagined or hoped for. Because never since their promotion in 1979 have Leverkusen started a Bundesliga season as badly as this season. They started off with three defeats in a row, and even after that, have continued to struggle whether under Gerardo Seoane or his successor as head coach, the ex Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder, Xabi Alonso. They have still only recorded victories against Mainz and Schalke and are currently in the relegation places in 16th.
Alonso's first major change was in Baer's tactics. A back four became a back three, and against supposedly stronger opponents like RB Leipzig, the Spaniard has augmented this by withdrawing his wingbacks to make it a back five. But this is probably the only comparison between Leverkusen and Union.
For the two teams could not be more different in terms of their style of play. Bayer's focus is on short passing and retention of the ball, with a strong 85% passing completion rate. They are not a side who use the long ball.
Robert Andrich has been wearing the jersey of the Werkself since his transfer there for the 2021/22 season, but before that, the Potsdam native had played 66 games for Union, establishing himself as a mainstay in midfield.
Lennart Grill, meanwhile, returns to his old stomping ground, on a season long loan at Union. His record at the club so far has seen three appearances, and three clean sheets.
After injuries sustained in the last Europa League group match, Union will have to do without goalkeeper Frederik Rönnow and midfielder András Schäfer. Otherwise, head coach Urs Fischer has the entire squad at his disposal.
The coaches' views ahead of the match
"We shouldn't look at the table," said a typically cautious Urs Fischer during his regular press conference on Saturday afternoon. "Bayer Leverkusen still have a very good team with high quality and a lot of ability. They have some players with a lot of pace who can make the difference. Many of their recent results are misleading when one looks at the results, but we have our plan and know what we have to do to be able to take something home from this in the end."
Bayern coach Xabi Alonso particularly highlighted Union's attitude: "Union have a good team spirit, it's always difficult for their opponents. They fight hard in every game and have played well. It's too early to say whether they can become champions. It will definitely be a good test for us. We need the win on Sunday!"
Service info: Stadium opens at 13:30
All the relevant information for fans travelling to Leverkusen, as well as open letter from the Leverkusen police, can be found here (in German). 1,700 fans are expected to make the trip.
The match will be broadcast live on DAZN and, as usual, Union will also provide information on the match in the club's own live ticker, as well as providing updates in English on twitter.