Bayern Munich are under pressure to perform as they play hosts to Union Berlin at the Allianz Arena this weekend.
Following Borussia Dortmund’s back-to-back wins over Arminia Bielefeld and 1. FSV Mainz 05, the Bundesliga title race has been brought back to life with only four points separating the Black and Yellows from league leaders Bayern Munich. With eight games still left to be played, the pendulum could swing either way, especially given the rather inconsistent form of Bayern.
Currently chasing their tenth successive Bundesliga title, the Bavarians have dropped points in back-to-back league matches against Bayer Leverkusen and TSG Hoffenheim. It has mounted pressure on Julian Nagelsmann, who has also had certain disagreements with the board for handing him a relatively weak squad at the start of the season.
Nevertheless, Bayern have a must-win encounter coming up as they take on Union Berlin at the Allianz Arena. It is a game the hosts should win as Union haven’t been in the best form since the January transfer window. Losing two key players in Marvin Friedrich and Max Kruse, Die Eisernen have struggled to maintain a level of consistency.
Despite sitting eighth in the league table, the visitors have only won one of their last six Bundesliga matches. Urs Fischer’s men were also dismantled 5-2 in the reverse fixture against Bayern, and with Eintracht Frankfurt breathing down their necks, the capital club cannot afford to drop their guard this time around.
Team News & Tactics
Nagelsmann: "Niki has a minor strain, he should be back after the international break. Benji tested positive. Coco is back in the squad and can theoretically play tomorrow. Leon is back in training, but he shouldn't be an option tomorrow, we discussed that with him" pic.twitter.com/NOuiE65O2E
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) March 18, 2022
If the injuries to Leon Goretzka and Alphonso Davies weren’t enough, Bayern Munich have been dealt with another blow this weekend, with defensive lynchpin Niklas Sule picking up a fresh knock that could keep him on the sidelines for weeks.
His absence could be devastating for a Bayern side that has already struggled defensively. To add more salt to the wounds, Benjamin Pavard has been ruled out due to COVID-19, meaning Julian Nagelsmann could be forced to settle for a makeshift back-three consisting of Tanguy Nianzou, Dayot Upamecano and Lucas Hernandez.
Joshua Kimmich should continue in the number six role, with Jamal Musiala featuring alongside him in the double-pivot. However, the midfield duo might not expect too much support as the two wing-backs in Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman are wingers with very little defensive nous.
It could leave Bayern vulnerable to quick counter-attacks, so the onus will be on Hernandez and Nianzou to cover the additional area out wide. Coman and Gnabry themselves could be asked to offer more work rate in the second line of press with Pavard and Davies unavailable.
Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller are set to serve as the other creative players for Bayern Munich, operating just behind the main striker Robert Lewandowski. The Pole was a slight doubt heading into this game, but he is back in contention and will be desperate to extend his goalscoring tally.
Probable Lineup (3-2-4-1): Neuer; Nianzou, Upamecano, Hernandez; Kimmich, Musiala; Gnabry, Muller, Sane, Coman; Lewandowski
Union Berlin have to deal with a few absentees themselves, including Grischa Promel, who is facing a suspension after picking up five yellow cards. Keita Endo is another player ruled out due to injury. There are also question marks over the availability of Genki Haraguchi and Levin Oztunali, which could lead to a major selection dilemma for Fischer.
3… 2… 1… TRAINING! ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/xxzYcNm4Pw
— 1. FC Union Berlin (@fcunion) March 18, 2022
Tactically, Union are likely to continue with their 3-4-2-1 formation, with Taiwo Awoniyi spearheading the frontline. Haraguchi and the electric Sheraldo Becker should appear in a withdrawn role, hoping to offer creativity in the final third.
In midfield, the absence of Promel and Endo could see Rani Khedira form the double-pivot alongside Kevin Mohwald, with the two being aided by the wing-back duo of Christopher Trimmel and Bastian Oczipka.
Trimmel is a particular threat for Bayern due to his set-piece deliveries, although the January exit of Friedrich has considerably lowered Union’s effectiveness in aerial duels. The onus will be on the likes of Paul Jaeckel, Robin Knoche and Timo Baumgartl to replace that proficiency both in terms of defending the Bayern pressure as well as offering a threat from set-pieces.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Luthe; Jaeckel, Knoche, Baumgartl; Trimmel, Khedira, Mohwald, Oczipka; Becker, Haraguchi; Awoniyi
- Robert Lewandowski has scored in each of his four meetings against Union to date (five goals in total).
- Manuel Neuer can break the individual record for most Bundesliga wins. He’s currently level with former Bayern stopper and current CEO Oliver Kahn on 310 victories.
- Bayern will play in their 1,935th Bundesliga game – a league record. Their return so far is 1,163 wins, 418 draws, 353 defeats and 4,309 goals scored.
- Taiwo Awoniyi has ten Bundesliga goals this season and 16 in Union colours. One more would take him past Max Kruse as the club’s record top-flight goalscorer.
- Union Berlin have taken just four points from their last six Bundesliga games, losing as many games in that time (four) as they did in their first 20 matches of the campaign.
Player to Watch
A lot of us have criticized Upamecano, but he'll now likely be thrust back into action due to Sule's injury.
Could always move Pavard to CB and Kimmich to RB, but Pavard has COVID right now, so that's not possible.
So, need to support Upamecano. He needs our support. pic.twitter.com/0pzuDncEaR
— Bavarian Football Works (@BavarianFBWorks) March 17, 2022
This is a big game for Dayot Upamecano, who will be expected to step up in the absence of Sule and Pavard this weekend. Formerly of RB Leipzig, the Frenchman has received fierce criticism for his performances since joining Bayern. He has struggled to properly impose himself in the defensive third, while committing countless errors that have cost Bayern dearly in the past.
The youngster will have a glorious opportunity to prove himself as he looks to lead the Bayern back-three against Union Berlin. It will be particularly interesting to see how he deals with the threat of Awoniyi and Becker.
Bayern Munich 2-0 Union Berlin
Bayern Munich are likely to come roaring back to form this weekend despite their poor performances in the Bundesliga in recent weeks. While the absence of key defensive players may have an impact, it is fair to point out that Union have lacked attacking firepower after the departure of Max Kruse.
The return of Manuel Neuer has further solidified the Bayern Munich defence, so it would be a surprise to see the visitors scoring a goal. As for the Bayern attack, Lewandowski’s return to fitness, coupled with the service of five talented creative players, could see the Bavarians truly dominate the game and perhaps even score two or more goals at the Allianz Arena.