Union Berlin, in fourth place, and fifth placed Freiburg are tied on 56 points going into Saturday’s vital Bundesliga match up at Stadion An der Alten Forsterei.
An additional three points for either team would be crucial as the fight for Champions League football heats up. This season, both teams have amassed 16 victories, eight draws, and seven losses.
Union Berlin and Freiburg are already guaranteed to play in some kind of European competition in 2023/24 despite both losing 1-0 at the weekend, but they might not be content with anything less than an initial UEFA Champions League (UCL) berth to finish off their historic campaigns. This match up, which has a chance to decide which team (if not both) will claim one of Germany’s four berths in the UCL group stage, could be crucial given that the two teams are currently tied for points entering this round fourth and fifth, respectively.
Since this is Union Berlin’s fourth season in the top division, it is understandable that they have experienced some patchy times throughout the season. However, the difficulties of Union Berlin, who have won only one of their previous five Bundesliga games (W1, D2, L2), are not new. Due to their unblemished Bundesliga home record (W9, D6), they can reasonably count on at least one point, but inverting their 4-1 loss away to Freiburg in November seems doubtful given that they haven’t scored four or more goals in any of their last 27 league games.
Freiburg manager Christian Streich endured the bitter taste of defeat at home to Leipzig twice in five days, the first of which (5-1) eliminated them from the DFB-Pokal while the second propelled Leipzig into third place in the standings, despite boasting that his players “left it all on the field.” Freiburg cannot assert that it deserves a position higher than fourth after losing each of its six league games against the top three teams.
But their W16, D8, L1 Bundesliga record versus the rest of the league should help them in this game of life or death, especially as it features the second longest active unbeaten streak in away matches (W3, D2) in the Bundesliga. The foundation of Freiburg’s success has been their defense, and their current string of 12 league games with no more than one goal allowed will make it much harder for Union to win.
Sheraldo Becker, who has a perfect W7, D2 record in all 2022/23 tournaments when scoring, scored Union’s most recent league goal with his right foot. The Freiburg striker Vincenzo Grifo, who destroyed Union with a hat trick in the first half of the reverse H2H, surpasses that W9, D2 when scoring in any competition.
Urs Fischer can have confidence knowing that Union Berlin has a healthy team for the final stretch, providing the manager alternatives in every area.
Sheraldo Becker, who has tallied 10 goals and 8 assists this season, will remain in the attack with Kevin Behrens, who has contributed nine goals and three assists in all competitions.
Rani Khedira will hold down the midfield position at the other end of the field, with Danilho Doekhi, Robin Knoche, and Paul Jaeckel continuing in the backline.
Daniel-Kofi Kyereh, a midfielder for Freiburg, will miss the balance of the season as he continues to rehabilitate from an ACL injury, and Philipp Lienhart is questionable for Saturday’s game because of illness.
Ritsu Doan, a crucial winger who missed last weekend’s loss to RB Leipzig despite having seven goals and seven assists on the season, is also uncertain about his availability.
Doan is probably going to miss Saturday’s match, therefore Noah Weisshaupt and Vincenzo Grifo will likely support the Michael Gregoritsch and Lucas Holer offensive tandem.
Possible starting lineup for Union Berlin
Ronnow, Jaeckel, Knoche, Doekhi, Juranovic, Laidouni, Khedira, Haberer, Roussillon, Behrens and Becker.
Possible starting lineup for Freiburg
Flekken, Kubler, Ginter, Gulde, Gunter, Eggestein, Hofler, Weisshaupt, Grifo, Gregoritsch and Holer.
We predict: Union Berlin 1-1 Freiburg
In order to avoid losing and keep their top four hopes alive, Union Berlin and Freiburg appear destined to play out a cagey draw in the German capital.
Fischer’s team is anticipated to extend their unbeaten streak at home to 19 games with a spirited draw on Saturday, despite Union’s recent struggles.