Chris Williams –
Union Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund – Saturday, August 31, 17:30BST/18:30CEST – Stadion An der Alten Försterei, Berlin, Germany
Union Berlin’s baptism of fire in the Bundesliga continues – just two weeks after hosting title contenders RB Leipzig, the Köpenick club welcome title favourites Borussia Dortmund to the magical Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
Matchday one was full of mixed emotions for the Bundesliga’s newest side. Their arrival into the big time was a party event, the hammering dished out by RB Leipzig not quite the main course that the capital club expected.
However, an away day In Bavaria saw Die Eisernen pick up their first league points, a late goal securing a vital one-one draw against Augsburg. Having lost their opener it was imperative Union got something from the match versus Augsburg – doing so ensures points on the board, and so begins the long march to safety.
The scoreline from the Leipzig game didn’t really reflect Urs Fischer’s tactics on the day, Union should have got on the scoresheet, the chances were created. It was a lesson in finishing from Julian Nagelsmann’s side, the imbalance marginally rectified at the WWK Arena – but, once again two shots on target from their 11 wasn’t enough to hammer home the Iron advantage when it came.
“We hope to pick up where we left off in Augsburg” Fischer said on Thursday, and if the chance presents itself Union will have to take it, otherwise a similar outcome to that seen against Leipzig could be another harsh reality placed upon the debutants.
If there is any hope for Union in this fixture it is that Dortmund have leaked an early goal in both their Bundesliga matches so far – however, it has only served to anger Die Schwarzgelben, going on to sweep aside Augsburg and Köln with a relative – if eventual – ease.
Lucien Favre is no stranger to his opposite number on Saturday and will approach the game aware of Union’s strengths, “We did not work together in Zurich, but he was often there. His teams are always very well organised” the Swiss coach said of his compatriot during Thursday’s press conference.
The Westfalenstadion residents look to be still building at the back, relationships between their defenders aren’t quite at 100% yet, but the same can’t be said of their attack.
The addition of Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt has added an extra edge, on top of that already found in Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus and Paco Alcácer. For any potential frailty at one end of the pitch, their sumptuous offerings up front allow for a brand of football that is at times – utterly spellbinding.
On paper, Saturday’s Topspiel looks a one-sided affair, but as the Bundesliga has proven over the last few seasons – it is on the pitch, not the writing pad where the game is decided.
Union Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund – Players to look out for:
Sebastian Andersson #10 – Union Berlin
The Sweeden international had a wonderful promotion season with Union, and he looks to be picking up where he left off – even with a move up in opposition. His goal against Augsburg followed from a standout performance against Leipzig, even in defeat.
His ability to finish in and around the box – with his head or feet – could cause Dortmund some problems in an area where they have looked susceptible at times. An early Union setpiece on Saturday could set the cat among the pigeons – if it does expect the 28-year-old to be fully involved.
Julian Brandt #19 – Borussia Dortmund
The 23-year-old has made his first two Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund from the bench, but his performances should warrant a starting line-up call for Saturday’s visit to the capital. A debut goal in the demolition of Augsburg was quickly followed by a match-turning impact against Köln.
Brandt’s ability on the left flank is matched by teammate Sancho on the right, thus making Dortmund a frightening prospect for any opposition. Containing them both will cause Union headaches and any slight gap left for the German will be exploited to devastating effect.
Union Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund – Match Stats
- Saturday will mark only the third time the clubs have met, the first in the Bundesliga
- Dortmund have won both previous encounters, in the DFB Pokal – with Union taking the Yellow and Blacks to extra time and penalties
- The visitors currently lead the way with eight goals in two games, Union has leaked five in their opening two, scoring just once.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Union Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund – 1-3
Union Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund – Lineups
Gikiewicz – Trimmel, Friedrich, Subotic, Lenz – Gentner, Andrich – Becker, Ingvartsen, Bülter – Andersson
Head Coach: Urs Fischer
Bürki – Piszczek, Akanji, Hummels, Schulz – Weigl, Delaney – Sancho, Reus, Brandt – Alcácer
Head Coach: Lucien Favre
Chris Williams is a freelance European football journalist. Covering the Bundesliga, Premier League and both of UEFA’s European club competitions. Published in both local and international publications, he also contributes to television and radio across the globe. A member of the UK’s Sports Journalist Association and the International Sports Press Association (AIPS). Follow Chris Williams on Twitter @Chris78Williams