Thursday 6th October- Europa League
Malmö v Union Berlin
To say that there has been a mismatch between Union Berlin’s Bundesliga form and their European form would be an understatement to say the least. The Bundesliga leaders after eight matches have lost both their sorties in the Europa League thus far lending extra importance to their trip to Sweden on Thursday to face Malmö, who are also pointless in group D.
Union began their European adventure with a surprise home defeat to Belgian outfit Union St. Gilloise. To make matters worse Sven Michel was sent off in injury time. An away loss to Braga followed meaning a win on Thursday is a real must if Union are to progress beyond the group stage this season.
They did however suffer their first Bundesliga defeat of the season at the weekend at Eintracht Frankfurt. Covid has hit the squad this week with coach Urs Fischer, Timo Baumgartl and Tim Maciejewski not able to travel to Sweden after testing positive.
Opponents Malmö lost 2-0 to Braga and the 3-2 away at Gilloise on matchday 2. Domestically they currently lie fourth in the Allsvenskan seven points behind leaders Djurgaarden.
Player to watch:
Bundesliga fans might remember striker Isaac Kiese Thelin for his brief spell (6 appearances) for Bayer Leverkusen in the 2018-19 season. He has been a bit of a journeyman without ever really hitting the heights in a big league, but now back home with Malmö he looks like he will hit the goal trail again and he does have six Champions League goals in the qualifying rounds this season.
Freiburg v Nantes
In contrast to Union Berlin, life in the Europa League couldn’t have started better for Freiburg and the have so far successfully juggled the demands of Bundesliga and Europe. A 2-1 home win over Qarabag started them off on the front foot in group G and an impressive 3-0 away win at Olympiacos followed on matchday 2.
The Breisgauer maintained their great start to the Bundesliga with a 2-1 win over Mainz at the weekend and confidence is high as they welcome Ligue 1 side Nantes to the Europa Park on Thursday.
The French visitors have not begun the season on top form with just one win so far from their nine matches and La Maison Jaune are hovering just above the bottom four. A 4-1 defeat to Monaco on Sunday will not have helped confidence going into their trip to Germany.
It has been a mixed bag in the Europa League so far for Antoine Kombouaré’s side. A win over Olympiacos in their opener was followed by a 3-0 away loss in Azerbaijan to Qarabag.
Player to watch:
There hasn’t been a lot to cheer about at the Beaujoire Stadium so far this season, but Nigerian forward Moses Simon has scored three and added an assist. He has actually scored a third of Nantes nine league goals so far and will want to open his European account against Freiburg.
Thursday 6th October- Conference League
Köln v Partizan
The Billy Goats top group D at the moment with four points from two matches so a win at home to Partizan would cement their place at the top. A draw with Nice in the hooligan affected opener was followed by a 4-2 home win over Slovacko last time out. The Czechs fought back from 2-0 down before a double from Dejan Ljubicic sealed the win.
Steffen Baumgart’s side will be roared on by a raucous home crowd at the Rhein-Energie Stadion fresh from their 3-2 Bundesliga win over Borussia Dortmund at the weekend.
There could be a long-awaited return to action for Mark Uth, who has been side-lined all season with a pubic bone issue. He was on the bench at the weekend against BVB but looks set for a first run out on Thursday.
The Serbian visitors have drawn both their matches so far (3-3 against Slovacko and 1-1 versus Nice), so are still looking for their first win in the group. In the domestic Super Liga, they are four points behind leaders Crvena Zvezda but have won their last four including a weekend 4-1 victory over Vojvodina.
Player to watch:
With three goals already in the Conference League French attacker Fousseni Diabaté will need close attention from the Köln defence. The 26-year-old had a couple of seasons with Leicester City in the Premier League before loan moves to Turkey and France.