Opponent analysis: Union Berlin vs. RB Leipzig

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After hosting the then league leaders, VfB Stuttgart, last weekend in a game that ended in a 5-1 victory, RB Leipzig go again on Sunday, this time against the new league leaders, Union Berlin.

The club from the capital are having the perfect start to the season, winning all three of their competitive games so far, and confirming that last season, when they finished fourth, was no fluke.

What’s changed at Union over the summer? Who are the new faces in their team? And what’s their tactical set-up looking like?

We’ll get you up to speed with our opponent analysis.

Tickets for #RBLVFB

Form

  • The Irons have certainly had an impressive start to the season. They’ve scored four goals in each of their three competitive games to start the season, which have had a combined scoreline of 12-2. They got off the mark with an imperious 4-0 victory at Regionalliga side Astoria Walldorf in the first round of the DFB-Pokal.

    Their start to the Bundesliga season also went smoothly. On matchday 1, Union dominated Mainz 05, winning 4-1 thanks to a hat-trick from striker Kevin Behrens. With this win, their unbeaten run at home stretched to 24 games, the longest ongoing run on home soil of any current Bundesliga side.

    One week later, FCU seized their next opportunity. Despite new arrival Brendan Aaronson getting his marching orders in the 21st minute, leaving Union with 10 men for the majority of the match, the Irons, who will compete in the Champions League this season, crushed promoted Darmstadt 98 4-1, with summer arrival Robin Gosens bagging a brace.

    As per usual, the Berliners are unbelievably good at set-pieces and in the air. Six of their eight Bundesliga goals this season have been headers – a league best.

     

Union’s form in numbers: 

  • Union Berlin…
    • …have the best attack in the Bundesliga at the moment, having scored eight goals in their first two gamesRB Leipzig and FC Bayern are both in second place with seven.

      …are clinical in the opposition box. FCU have scored with every third shot they’ve taken, having only needed 24 to score their eight goals.

      …like playing on the break. Up to now, Union have averaged 40% possession, with only Werder Bremen seeing less of the ball (39%).

Team news

Transfer market

New signings

  • Robin Gosens scored a brace on his maiden appearance in a Bundesliga starting XI against Darmstadt. The left-footed player, who grew up in North Rhine-Westphalia, made the decision to move to the Dutch Eredivisie at the age of 18. Particularly during his spell at Heracles Almelo, Gosens came into the spotlight thanks to his dynamism and dangerous crosses.

    In 2017, the winger made the move to Atalanta, where he matured into an integral member of the squad and one of Serie A’s most prolific providers. His strong performances piqued the interest of many high-level teams, causing the German international to make the move to Milan after five years in Bergamo. Gosens played for Inter in the Champions League final in June against Manchester City (1-0 loss), and is now fulfilling his “childhood dream” of playing in the Bundesliga.
     

  • Kevin Volland is also a well-known name in Germany. The attacker played for TSG Hoffenheim and Bayer 04 Leverkusen from 2012 to 2020, after which he spent three years at AS Monaco (39 competitive goals). The 31-year-old is known for his speed and powerful strike, as well as his wealth of experience in the Champions League (12 appearances).
  • Alex Kral moved to Berlin from recently-relegated Bundesliga 2 side Schalke 04. The Czech international performed well in his first year in Germany, and is a strong tackler and confident figure in defensive midfield. As a result of Rani Khedira’s injury, Kral deputised as a defensive midfielder in the starting XI in the first two league fixtures.
     
  • Brenden Aaronson is also a new addition. The young American is on loan from Leeds United, having previously spent two years at Red Bull Salzburg under Jesse Marsch after an initial transfer from the Philadelphia Union in 2020. The technically gifted 22-year-old made 36 appearances as an attacking midfielder for Leeds in the Premier League. His strengths lie with his acceleration and pressing ability, and he is seen as one of the biggest young American talents.
     
  • Lucas Tousart switched allegiances from Hertha BSC to Union Berlin in the summer. The Frenchman was a regular in Hertha’s defensive midfield for the past three years, and scored nine competitive goals for the club. The 26-year-old will always put his body on the line in a 1-v-1, and has already got multiple Europa League and Champions League appearances for Olympique Lyon on his CV. However, Tousart was forced  to miss large parts of pre-season due to a thigh injury.
     
  • David Datro Fofana also moved to the capital on loan from Chelsea. The 20-year-old youngster is versatile in attack and made his breakthrough last year. After he scored 21 goals for Molde FK in Norway, Chelsea seized the opportunity and secured the services of the Ivory Coast international in 
    January 2023. In England, the pacy youngster got only limited playing time, but now he has the chance to show his qualities in Berlin.
     
  • Danish striker Mikkel Kaufmann moved to Berlin from Karlsruher SC. Another attacking reinforcement is Benedict Hollerbach, who arrived from recently promoted second-tier side SV Wehen Wiesbaden. In addition, the club secured the services of goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow (previously at FC Schalke 04).

Departures

  • Multiple players departed Union Berlin over the summer, including full-back Niko Gießelmann (without club), midfielders Morten Thorsby (on loan to OFC Genoa) and Miloš Pantović (KAS Eupen), as well as attacker Sven Michel (FC Augsburg).
     
  • Jamie Lewelling (loan to VfB Stuttgart), Timo Baumgartl and Paul Seguin (both Schalke 04), among others, are also no longer in the squad.

Key players

  • Frederik Rönnow saved 77.7% of the shots he faced in the Bundesliga last season. That was by far the highest percentage out of all first-choice goalkeepers. Moreover, the Denmark international kept 11 clean sheets last season.
     
  • Centre-back Robin Knoche is the leader within Union’s back-three. He rarely misses a match and stands an imposing 1.90m tall. The 31-year-old is therefore extremely strong in the air. Knoche is also particularly threatening from set-pieces and takes penalties. 
     
  • Rani Khedira, who played for RBL from 2014 and 2017, has become firmly established at Union and it is hard to picture Union’s central midfield without him. When captain Christopher Trimmel isn’t in the starting XI, Khedira wears the armband for Union. At the moment, the 29-year-old is recovering from a calf injury.
     
  • Attacker Kevin Behrens has had a brilliant start to the season and should be assured of his place in the starting line-up for the time being. The striker scored a hat-trick against Mainz on the first day of the season and was also on the scoresheet in Darmstadt. Interestingly, he’s scored all four goals with his head, becoming the first player to net four headers in the opening two matchdays of a Bundesliga season! The 32-year-old can shoot with both his left and his right foot and is extremely robust and strong in the air due to his solid build. 

Absentees

  • Brenden Aaronsen is suspended for the game due to receiving two yellow cards on the second matchday in Darmstadt.
     
  • Defender Danilho Doekhi suffered a cheekbone fracture in the process of scoring a header in Union’s 4-1 win in Darmstadt. The Dutchman may be able to play against RBL wearing a face mask
     
  • His fellow countryman, Sheraldo Becker, also picked up an injury last game. The striker picked up a thigh injury and will probably miss out on Sunday.
     
  • New signing Lucas Tousart also picked up a thigh injury in a friendly against Udinese at the end of July. The Frenchman hasn’t been available since then.
     
  • Janik Haberer is also recovering from thigh problems and remains a doubt for this weekend. 
     
  • Rani Khedira will be out until at least the international break next week. Union’s defensive midfielder had to leave the pitch after picking up a calf injury in the DFB-Pokal away at Astoria Walldorf in August.
     
  • Hungary international András Schäfer has had another operation after a metatarsal fracture in May and is set to be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

Find all the latest RBL team news here.

Head coach

  • Urs Fischer (previously a two-time champion with FC Basel) has been in charge of Union since summer 2018. In the last five years, the 57-year-old has led his side from the 2. Bundesliga to the Champions League and has therefore played a huge part in the club’s recent success story.

    The Swiss coach, who featured for the national team in his playing days, likes to set his team out in a 3-5-2 formation. The aim: winning the ball in the centre and switching over to counter quickly. Fischer puts a lot of emphasis on a compact defence. In his system, it’s essential that every player keeps to the plan.

    A few weeks ago, the 57-year-old was named Coach of the Year by German sports journalists.

RBL head-to-head record vs. Union Berlin since 2019

Head-to-head:

  • 4 wins, 5 losses – 15 goals for, 12 goals against
  • 3 home wins, 1 away win
  • Top goalscorer: Timo Werner (3)
  • Biggest win: 4-0 on 18th August 2019 (Goals: Marcel Halstenberg, Marcel Sabitzer, Timo Werner, Christopher Nkunku)
     

The last five meetings:

  • 11th February 2023 | Bundesliga, matchday 20: RB Leipzig – Union Berlin | 1-2
  • 20th August 2022 | Bundesliga, matchday 3: Union Berlin – RB Leipzig | 2-1
  • 23rd April 2022 | Bundesliga, matchday 31: RB Leipzig – Union Berlin | 1-2
  • 20th April 2022 | DFB-Pokal, semi-final: RB Leipzig – Union Berlin | 2-1
  • 3rd December 2021| Bundesliga, matchday 14: Union Berlin – RB Leipzig | 2-1

Good to know: Christopher Lenz

Everything to know about our new signing!

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Opponent analysis: Union Berlin vs. RB Leipzig

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