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Saturday, November 28, 2020

1. FC Union Berlin vs Bayern Munich Preview: Probable Lineups…

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Bayern Munich travel to the German capital to face newcomers 1. FC Union Berlin as Bundesliga returns to action after over two months.

The German Bundesliga is the first to take a step towards normalcy, as football resumes in the top five leagues of Europe for the first time in nearly two months, after it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Things kicked off with a bang on Saturday with the Revierderby and holders Bayern Munich will be in action on Sunday against Union Berlin.

Union Berlin were promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time in the club’s history prior to the 2019/20 season and have fared pretty well so far. They sit in the 11th place in the table, two points above Eintracht Frankfurt who finished 7th in the previous season.

Berlin (32) have scored just one goal less than sixth-placed Schalke (33), while conceding 41 goals – two less than ninth-placed Hoffenheim. However, they have failed to win three of their last four games in all competitions.

On matchday 3 of the season, Berlin outplayed Dortmund at home, beating them 3-1 with the help of a brace from Marius Bulter and a goal from Sebastian Andersson. The duo has scored a total of 18 goals in the league, 56% of their team’s total.

As for Bayern, they sit on top of the league after a rocky start to the season losing games to the likes of Gladbach and Bayer Leverkusen that sent out a message that their stranglehold on the title might be coming to an end. Things have gone pretty smooth since the arrival of Hansi Flick who has turned Bayern’s season on its head.

The man with the golden touch. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The man with the golden touch. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The Munich-based outfit have not lost any of their last 11 games in the league, winning 31 points out of a possible 33. This total saw them leapfrog the likes of Gladbach, Leipzig and Dortmund to climb to the top of the ladder. Lucien Favre’s men are the closest challengers to Bayern right now, sitting just a point below them, following Saturday’s win against Schalke.

Their incredible form also includes the 0-3 dismantling of Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge in the Champions League, when the ever-so-scintillating Robert Lewandowski continued his insane form this season, scoring once and setting up both of Serge Gnabry’s goals. The Pole is the top scorer in the BuLi with 25 goals, just two off of Ciro Immobile , who tops the scoring charts in the European Golden Shoe race.

As the champions get ready to defend their title after a 70-day hiatus, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at this fixture and what awaits us.

Team News & Tactics

Union Berlin

The hosts will be without midfielder Yunus Malli, currently on loan at the club from VFL Wolfsburg, while they are  also going to miss first-choice centre-back Marvin Friedrich, who is absent from the squad after picking up a red card on the road vs Freiburg in their last game.

They are also without the services of winger Sheraldo Becker, who had sustained a thigh injury during the lockdown period.

Union Berlin boss Urs Fisher will not be present on the sidelines (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Union Berlin boss Urs Fischer will not be present on the sidelines (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

However, they will be most blown by the absence of their manager Urs Fischer, who has been banned from this fixture after breaking quarantine rules that said the entire squad must be under compulsory isolation for a week before the game kicked off. The Swiss manager travelled to visit his family after the sad demise of his father-in-law last week.

Some good news, though, as captain and first-choice right-back Christopher Trimmel is expected to start despite rumours surrounding his fitness. Berlin are expected to start in a 3-4-3 structure, that has been used most constantly thus far by Fischer, with Rafal Gikiewicz guarding the posts for them. The 32-year-old has kept six clean sheets, the fifth-highest in the league.

Neven Subotic, Keven Schlotterbeck and Florian Hubner are most likely to start in front of Gikiewicz in the three-man backline, flanked Trimmel and Christopher Lenz as wing-backs on the right and left respectively. The former has provided the highest assists (9) in the league for Die Eisern. 

Christian Gentner and Robert Andrich are likely to assume responsibility as the double pivot in the centre of the park, as they have throughout the season. Andersson is expected to slot in as the No. 9, with Bulter and Marcus Ingvartsen on either side of him. Anthony Ujah could also take up the centre-forward position, but that would mean Andersson shifts to the right-wing.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Gikiewicz; Subotic, Hubner, Schlotterbeck; Trimmel, Gentner, Andrich, Lenz; Ingvartsen, Andersson, Bulter

Bayern Munich

Lewandowski, who was out with a knee injury is likely to take back his place in the starting lineup after he was replaced by Joshua Zirkee in the last game – against Augsburg – before the league was shutdown.

More good news follows for Bayern as Kingsley Coman, Ivan Perisic and Jann-Fiete Arp have also returned from injury and are expected to be a part of the bench, at least, if not starters.

Coutinho likely to miss out on Sunday (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Coutinho likely to miss out on Sunday (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

However, neither of Quarantine Tolisso (geddit?) and Philippe Coutinho will be available for Die Roten. Niklas Sule, too, is out recovering from a long-term knee injury and cannot feature in the Bundesliga yet.

We expect Bayern to play the same back four they have started so often this season, with Benjamin Pavard, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Alphonso Davies guarding Manuel Neuer, who will don the captain’s armband in goal.

Thiago Alcantara and Joshua Kimmich are likely to start as screening midfielders in the double pivot. The latter has made the move back upfield under Flick and has been unplayable since. Thiago, too, is having a stellar season and is among the best midfielders in the world this campaign.

The German coach will most probably play four men up front, with Coman on the right and Gnabry on the left. Between them in the 4-2-3-1, an in-form Thomas Muller will take the No. 10 role. And ahead of this ravishing trio, Lewandowski should start as the sole striker.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Boateng, Alaba, Davies; Thiago, Kimmich; Coman, Muller, Gnabry; Lewandowski

Key Stats

  • Bayern Munich have collected 31 points from a possible 33 in their last 11 Bundesliga games, the most in this time period, which saw them leapfrog everyone else to reach the top of the table.
  • This is the first time Bayern are travelling to Stadion An der Alten Försterei to face Union Berlin.
  • Bayern have scored the most goals in the league with 73 and have conceded the least with 26.
  • Robert Lewandowski has scored the most goals in the league, with 25 in 23 games.
  • Thomas Muller has given the most assists in the Bundesliga this season. His tally of 16 is one more than Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho’s (15).

Player to Watch

Robert Lewandowski

Unstoppable. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Unstoppable. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The 31-year-old Pole has started the season in unstoppable form, scoring 39 goals across all competitions for Bayern. He is scoring in the Bundesliga at the rate of a goal every 82 minutes, and has overtaken former manager Jupp Heynckes in the all-time scoring charts in the Bundesliga. He is now the third-highest goal-getter, with 227 strikes.

Lewa’s clinical finishing make him an extremely lethal player in front of goal, and if that was not enough, he is an incredible passer as well. The Pole has been inarguably the best player in the world this campaign and scored when Berlin travelled to the Allianz Arena in the first half of the season.

Prediction

Union Berlin 1-4 Bayern Munich

Bayern have been in scintillating form since the departure of Niko Kovac from the touchline. The only time they dropped points since the turn of the year was against RB Leipzig at home, in a 0-0 draw. Despite the 70-day hiatus, we expect Bayern to take full control of the game and come out as comfortable victors on Sunday.

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