Eintracht Frankfurt are the next club to attempt to stop the Union Berlin rollercoaster as the minnows from Köpenick continue to defy the odds and lead the Bundesliga table. The matchday eight clash at the Deutsche Bank Park pits the Europa League champions against a side that finished 15 points ahead of them last season.
As the weeks go by and the points keep coming for Union, the surprise factor of their incredible achievement dwindles slightly and the realisation that they are a really good footballing side comes to the fore. Urs Fischer’s side have passed the Bayern Munich test this season and have also passed the RB Leipzig test, so a trip to Frankfurt won’t fill them with dread, although they will be wary of the threat posed at home by the Adler.
The news this week that coach Urs Fischer has signed a contract extension with the club will come as music to the ears of Union supporters and the wily coach will have to set his side up well if he is to overcome Oliver Glasner’s side. Union have managed to keep their Bundesliga form going even if it has deserted them somewhat in Europe. The international break often throws up some quirky results, but the fact that Union so many players returning from international duty is testament to how far they have come in such a short space of time.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s two consecutive away victories over Marseille in the Champions League and VfB Stuttgart in the league will fill them with confidence going into Saturday’s clash. The 1-0 home loss to strugglers Wolfsburg needs to be quickly forgotten and a real performance will be required to overcome Union.
Like their visitors, Eintracht have their own set of stand-out performers this season with summer arrival Randal Kolo Muani and Daichi Kamada on particular top form thus far. Frankfurt have however had difficulties against deep lying defensive blocks this season and Union have been defensively rock solid meaning the hosts are going to have to find a novel way to circumnavigate the visitors’ defence.
The recently injured left back pair of Luca Pellegrini and Christopher Lenz are fit again and could be an option for Oliver Glasner. Rafael Borré isn’t expected to return until Thursday from Colombian international duty, although no injuries have been reported from any of the other returnees.
The Dane Jesper Lindstrom (attracting interest from Arsenal) gives an option in midfield with Kamada possibly dropping a little deeper or starting on the bench following his travels with Japan.
Possible line-up: Trapp, Tuta, Hasebe, Ndicka, Jakic, Rode, Sow, Knauff, Kamada, Götze, Kolo Muani
Urs Fischer has the luxury of picking from a virtually fully fit squad. Paul Jaeckel or Danilho Doekhi could step in for the newly returned Timo Baumgartl, while Hungarian Andras Schäfer is an option in the centre of midfield rather than Morten Thorsby.
Possible line-up: Rönnow, Baumgartl, Knoche, Leite, Trimmel, Khedira, Ryerson, Thorsby, Haberer, Jordan, Becker
What they’re saying:
Oliver Glasner: “Union Berlin are a team who have been cleverly put together, have a great coach in Urs Fischer, who gives their play a clear thumbprint. They’re very compact and are one of the best counter-attacking teams.
“The most important thing is that we go into this period with a smile on our faces. It’s still Eintracht’s first ever season in the Champions League, which is why we have so many games. The boys are in very good shape, they’re professional and they’re well looked after.
“We’re also approaching this phase with a lot of enthusiasm. I’ve been told that every home game will be sold out into November, so we’re really looking forward to that. The boys want to play, they want to compete. We’ll get through this period well.”
Tuta: “All the players, both those who have time off and the internationals who keep their rhythm, will be well prepared for the many games that lie ahead. I see us prepared to experience a golden October.”
Urs Fischer: “They [Frankfurt] are in good shape. It’s a good mix of experience, speed, and individual quality. Götze moves between the spaces, acts as an instigator. And Kolo Muani comes primarily through his enormous speed.
“They’re always dangerous in these situations. We shouldn’t opt for an open game against them. We have to play at our limit again.”
17.09.22 VfB Stuttgart (a) 1-3 W (Bundesliga)
13.09.22 Marseille (a) 0-1 W (Champions League)
10.09.22 VfL Wolfsburg (h) 0-1 L (Bundesliga)
07.09.22 Sporting Lisbon (h) 0-3 L (Champions League)
03.09.22 RB Leipzig (h) 4-0 W (Bundesliga)
18.09.22 VfL Wolfsburg (h) 2-0 W (Bundesliga)
15.09.22 Sporting Braga (a) 1-0 L (Europa League)
11.09.22 Köln (a) 0-1 W (Bundesliga)
08.09.22 Royal Union Saint Gilloise (h) 0-1 L (Europa League)
03.09.22 Bayern Munich (h) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
The corresponding fixture last season saw Eintracht beat Union on matchday 13 at the Deutsche Bank Park. Djibril Sow gave the home side the lead in the 22nd minute only for Evan Ndicka to foul Taiwo Awoniyi and give away a penalty just after the hour mark, which was duly converted by Max Kruse.
Ndicka however made up for his mistake by heading home the winning goal from a Filip Kostic cross five minutes into injury time.
Players to watch:
Randal Kolo Muani was rewarded for his excellent start to the season at Eintracht Frankfurt with a call-up to the French international squad. He made substitute appearances against both Austria and Denmark and will want to get back to terrorising Bundesliga defences this weekend with the challenge of cracking the well-organised Union back line.
Sheraldo Becker is the league’s leading scorer with six goals from an xG of just 1.1. The Suriname international has been banging them in from all angles and has formed an instant partnership with US international striker Jordan Pefok. He won our Player of the Month award for August and must surely be in contention this month as well.