The race for the Champions League heads to the German capital on Saturday afternoon as Union Berlin hosts Borussia Monchengladbach at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
Union Berlin have been one of the stories of the season. Starting the Ruckrunde with 28 points, Urs Fischer's team have also managed to beat Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund, teams that his side now found themselves around in the hunt for Champions League football. This impressive run over the past month has come without the presence of their talisman Max Kruse, highlighting their incredible team spirit and unity. Although they have lost their previous two matches, not even the most ardent Union fans would have expected this season to be such a success.
As for Gladbach, their impressive start to 2021 keeps carrying on. A 4-2 win over Borussia Dortmund really stamped down their Champions League intentions, as two Nico Elvedi goals made it three in two games for the centre back while Marcus Thuram scored on his return to the team after his spitting incident. At the moment, everything seems rosy with Marco Rose at the helm.
Union Berlin - Urs Fischer's team are missing a large amount of first teamers. Strikers Max Kruse and Anthony Ujah are certain absentees with thigh and knee problems, while Christian Gentner, Sheraldo Becker, and Joel Pohjanpalo could miss out after recent injury issues. Captain Christopher Trimmel is supsended along with Florian Hubner as well.
Borussia Monchengladbach - Marco Rose is in a luxury position compared to his counterpart. The only potential absentee is Austrian international Valentino Lazaro who has suffered a slight muscle tear, so Saturday's game might be too soon for him.
Union Berlin - Andreas Luthe; Marvin Friedrich, Robin Knoche, Nico Schlotterbeck; Julian Ryerson, Robert Andrich, Sebastian Griesbeck, Grischa Promel, Christopher Lenz; Taiwo Awoniyi, Marcus Ingvartsen
Borussia Monchengladbach - Yann Sommer; Stefan Lainer, Nico Elvedi, Matthias Ginter, Ramy Bensebaini; Florian Neuhaus, Christoph Kramer; Patrick Herrmann, Lars Stindl, Jonas Hofmann; Alassane Plea
Union Berlin - WDWLL - last game - 2-1 (L) vs FC Augsburg
Borussia Monchengladbach - WWDWW - last game - 4-2 (W) vs Borussia Dortmund
Ones to watch
Union Berlin - Urs Fischer's side is very much a team, and without Max Kruse, they lack a real standout talent. One player who epitomises this is midfielder Robert Andrich, who is one of the first names on the team sheet when available. Known more for his forceful play and doing 'the dirty work', his thunderous free kick against Wolfsburg a few weeks ago showed that he can play as well.
Borussia Monchengladbach - A few weeks ago, Ramy Bensebaini would not have been the most popular figure amongst fans after giving away a 94th minute penalty against Stuttgart. This allowed Silas Wamangituka to step up and draw them level as Die Fohlen threw away two valuable points. However, one week later, he more than made up for it. Cutting in onto his right foot and bending an exquisite shot past Roman Burki for Gladbach's third against Dortmund on Friday night, the Algerian made amends and will be looking to build on that in their trip to Berlin.
Union Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach have only faced off against each other three times in recent years, with each time providing a different result. One Union win, one draw and one Monchengladbach win demonstrates how even the matchup has been. The game earlier this season ended 1-1 with Nico Schlotterbeck scoring an 80th minute equaliser for the men from Berlin.
Where to watch on TV
Unfortunately the game will not be broadcasted live in the UK, but those in the United States can watch the action unfold on ESPN+.
What have the managers said ?
Urs Fischer, Union Berlin - "Gladbach are a top team. They have taken 13 points from a possible 15 in recent games - have beaten Dortmund and Bayern. Who finishes second in a Champions League group with Real Madrid, Inter (Milan) and Shakhtar (Donetsk), is a top level team."
"I expect Monchengladbach to play high. It's important for us to be compact. If you give Gladbach room, they have huge quality. They open play and have pace. We need to be tight. We need to be brave with the ball, play forward and take pressure off the defence.
Marco Rose, Borussia Monchengladbach - "Union have kept improving. They defended outstandingly well last year and they are still doing so. It's hard to get behind their back line. On top of that they are playing really good football this season. They are really brave."
"Union are a team that put a lot into games. They run absolutely miles. They will want to send a signal in the opening stages. It is important for us to stand firm against that and not get hit on the break."
"It's still not a given for Union to be playing in the Bundesliga. The longer they continue to play at a high level, the more the expectation surrounding them grows. I know that from my time at Mainz."