Bayern Munich could hand Bundesliga upstarts Union Berlin a reality check in the top of the table clash this weekend.
Defending champions Bayern Munich are not just coming off a summer that saw them reinforce key positions in the squad but have also gotten off to a flying start in the Bundesliga.
With three wins and a draw in their first four games, Die Roten are the early favourites for the title. Despite dropping points to Borussia Monchengladbach, the Bavarians will take some stopping. After all, it took a superhuman feat of goalkeeping from Yan Sommer to secure a point for Die Fohlen on the night.
Berlin curiously have gotten off to a fine start this season and trails Bayern in the Bundesliga standings. Despite the good start, Die Eisernen have never beaten Bayern in their history and Julian Nagelsmann’s superteam will once again head into the game as favourites.
Urs Fischer’s side gained promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in 2019-20 and have since made a name for themselves in the top flight. They finished 11th in their debut season before following it up with a seventh-placed finish and a fifth-placed finish in 2020-21 and 2021-22 respectively.
Now they find themselves in the lofty heights of sharing the same points as Bayern. While expecting them to mount a serious title challenge could be too much, Fischer and co could silence a few doubters by breaking into the Champions League spots this season. There is no better message to make other teams across Europe sit up and take notice than to beat Bayern this weekend.
Given how close the teams at the top are, TSG Hoffenheim or Borussia Dortmund could go top should they win their early kickoff on Friday night. That should, however, only add more spice to a game that could be one to keep an eye on. After all, the winner not only secures three points but also bragging rights as Bundesliga leaders at least until matchday six.
The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.
Team News & Tactics
— 1. FC Union Berlin (@fcunion) September 2, 2022
Die Eisernen have punched above their weight since being promoted to the Bundesliga in the 2019-20 campaign and show no signs of slowing down. Unfortunately, a face-off against Bayern is as close to a reality check as one can get in German domestic football.
Julian Nagelsmann’s side are the last team to beat Berlin and shipped nine goals past them over both fixtures in the 2021-22 campaign. This included a 5-2 win in Berlin, the first time that the home side have conceded five times in the top flight. The Bavarians have strengthened considerably this summer, and another dominant outing could be on the cards.
Fischer deserves great credit for making Berlin a familiar face in German football but will have to see his side dig deep to beat Bayern. But then, despite never having beaten the visitors ever, that record has to end sometime and doing so right now will send a clear message to the league at large that Berlin are the real deal. It should be enough to light a fire within the Berlin players ahead of the game.
They will take to the field sans Diogo Leite, who bruised himself in the 6-1 win at Schalke and Timo Baumgartl, who is still a few weeks away from regaining match fitness. Fischer is unlikely to change a team that has been stellar this season and will go into the game sporting a 3-5-2 formation.
Frederik Ronnow will start in goal behind a back three of Paul Jaeckel, Danilho Doekhi and Robin Knoche. They will be anchored by the midfield trio of Janik Haberer, Morten Thorsby and Rani Khedira. Christopher Trimmel and Julian Ryerson will start on the flanks and will be deputised to serve in both attacking and defensive roles.
Jordan Siebatcheu and Sheraldo Becker will rekindle their partnership upfront and should cause the Bayern backline some problems. Berlin’s strength has been their teamwork which often sees the side garner a better output than the sum of their parts. So far, it has come short against Bayern. How it holds up this time will be interesting to see.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Ronnow; Jaeckel, Doekhi, Knoche; Haberer, Thorsby, Khedira, Trimmel, Ryerson; Siebatcheu, Becker
The defending champions have been impeccable this season and are the only side in the top flight to outscore Berlin this season in the Bundesliga. They have remained immune to their opponents’ rising stature over the years and have constantly put them to the sword.
They came away 5-2 winners in the corresponding fixture last season and have only gotten stronger. But then, Berlin have also evolved, and it will be curious to see if they can offer a better challenge this time around. Julian Nagelsmann’s side have outplayed all of their opponents this season and are in top form going into the game at the weekend.
The Bayern boss rang in the changes for his side’s DFB Pokal tie against Viktoria Koln and should bring back the big guns for the weekend. Nagelsmann has a fully fit squad to choose from and is admittedly spoilt for choice. Leon Goretzka returned to action midweek and is unlikely to be risked until he gets his fitness back to optimal levels.
Abschlusseinheit an der Säbener!
— FC Bayern München (@FCBayern) September 2, 2022
Jamal Musiala has been one of Bayern’s standout players this summer and is available after recovering from an adductor injury. Eric Choupo-Moting is also available following surgery to remove his kidney stones but is unlikely to start.
Bayern are likely to turn out in a 4-2-3-1 formation that makes optimal use of their fluid frontline. Manuel Neuer is a certainty between the sticks and will command the back four of Alphonso Davies, Lucas Hernandez, Matthijs de Ligt and Benjamin Pavard. The double pivot of Joshua Kimmich and Marcel Sabitzer will give the visitors the impetus they need to win the midfield battle.
Serge Gnabry is likely to start wide on the left, with Kingsley Coman occupying the other flank. Thomas Muller will reprise his role as the number 10 with Sadio Mane leading the line. Just how well Berlin will handle the front four could dictate the outcome of the game.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Davies, Hernandez, De Ligt, Pavard; Sabitzer, Kimmich; Gnabry, Muller, Coman; Mane
- Union Berlin have never beaten Bayern Munich in their entire history. Die Roten have only has longer unbeaten runs in the top flight against Rot-Weiss Oberhausen and SV Darmstadt (Eight games).
- Bayern Munich remains the sole German side to have won two Bundesliga games away to Union Berlin.
- Union Berlin have taken 10 points from their first four games this season, making this their best start to a Bundesliga season in history. This is also the first time that they have occupied any of the top two positions in the German top flight.
- Union Berlin are unbeaten in their previous 11 Bundesliga games. This is also the longest such run in the German top flight at this moment.
- Bayern Munich are the only team to have scored five goals past Union Berlin at the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei in the Bundesliga.
Player to Watch
The German international has been in scintillating form this season and has formed a good understanding with Mane in the attack. His good form has seen Leroy Sane largely start from the bench this season. Curiously Union Berlin is the only side that Gnabry is yet to score against in the current Bundesliga roster. He will be keen to address that on Saturday as Bayern look to pull away in the title race.
Possessing pace, power and intelligence, the 27-year-old is a difficult player to pin down. He is also a clinical finisher and knows his way around the penalty area. With Davies also available on the overlap, Gnabry could have a night to remember in the German capital.
Union Berlin 1-3 Bayern Munich
Berlin have certainly improved and are a rising force in German football. The fact that they have competed at the top levels sans any big names in the squad is a testament to their teamwork and organisation. It has, however, brought them little joy against Bayern, who have swept them aside with impunity in recent times.
While the game will present Bayern with their toughest challenge yet this season, Nagelsmann’s squad has the strength in depth to see the game out. It might not be as dominant as they are used to, but Bayern should come out of the game with all three points in the bag.