Two Bundesliga teams who could really use a win for different reasons face off on Saturday as Union Berlin hosts Werder Bremen at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
Berlin’s European dreams were dealt a blow during the week as they lost to Borussia Dortmund. The result put Die Eisernen four points behind 6th place Bayer Leverkusen with four games left to go, making their matchup on the penultimate weekend of the season a potentially crucial one. Even if Union don’t end up qualifying for some sort of European competition, they’ll still be immensely proud of how their season turned out considering the fact that they were seen as relegation contenders going into the campaign.
Speaking of relegation contenders, Bremen find themselves back in the thick of the fight for survival after they were beaten at home by Mainz on Wednesday. Things are a bit of a mess at the bottom of the standings in terms of everyone’s games played due Hertha Berlin’s COVID-19 outbreak, but Die Grün-Weißen do know that they are only four points clear of 17th place Köln. That’s why a win here would be so big for Werder, as it could be enough for them to confirm their top-flight status for another year.
Berlin are dealing with an attacking injury crisis at the moment, as Sheraldo Becker, Leon Dajaku, and Anthony Ujah have all been ruled out for the contest, while Taiwo Awoniyi is questionable as well.
On the bright side for Die Eisernen, they’ve got no other absences to worry about at the moment.
Bremen will be without two of their three usual starting centre-backs, as Ömer Toprak and Miloš Veljković are both out due to injury. Nick Woltemade is also unavailable for selection, as he’s yet to recover from a knee issue.
Leonardo Bittencourt and Luca Plogmann, meanwhile, are doubts for Die Grün-Weißen.
Union Berlin: Luthe, Trimmel, Friedrich, Knoche, Lenz, Ingvartsen, Prömel, Kruse, Andrich, Bülter, Musa
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Groß, Moisander, Friedl, Gebre Selassie, Eggestein, Möhwald, Schmid, Augustinsson, Sargent, Rashica
Ones to watch
Former Bremen man Max Kruse will be looking to haunt his former club this weekend after missing the return fixture earlier this season.
He had been out for a good chunk of the campaign, as a torn muscle bundle put him on the treatment table for just over two months. It was an especially untimely injury given how well he had started the year, with the German scoring six goals and dishing out five assists in the first 10 games as Berlin were in 6th place before he got hurt.
Although his absence didn’t completely derail Die Eisernen’s season, they still suffered without him. It wasn’t much of a surprise to see their fortunes somewhat turn back around when Kruse recently returned, although a loss to Borussia Dortmund during the week has dented their hopes of qualifying for Europe.
Berlin will look to bounce back from that disappointment in this contest, and Kruse could have a big part to play in that happening. A Bundesliga veteran, he’s been there and done that, and he just knows what to do at this stage of his career. The German does lack pace, which is understandable since he is 33 years old, but he more than makes up for it with his experience and attacking intelligence.
Kruse will also bury almost any chance that falls his way, especially if it’s from the penalty spot. He actually had an effort saved earlier in the season, which became newsworthy. That just goes to show how lethal he usually is.
It was painful enough for Bremen to watch the player choose Berlin over them, but seeing Kruse score or assist against them this weekend would only make the sadness feel that much worse.
It shouldn’t be understated just how much Maximilian Eggestein has done for Bremen this season.
It began early on in the campaign, as fellow center midfielder Davy Klaassen was sold to Eredivisie giants Ajax, his former club, after just three Bundesliga matches. The Dutchman was a key player for Bremen, but his sale was somewhat forced as the team needed to make some money after losing out on a lot of it as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He wasn’t replaced as a result, leaving a hole in the midfield.
Then came the Milot Rashica situation. He seemed set to depart in the offseason, but a move never happened. Die Grün-Weißen’s star man then missed the first few games of the campaign through injury, recovered, and then got hurt again. He’s featured on a consistent basis ever since his most recent return, but he’s not come anywhere close to his peak.
All things considered, one of Bremen’s most important players was gone, and another was underperforming. Thankfully for them, Eggestein has stepped up this season.
The German has been the team’s best player. His impact is undeniable, as he’s a real factor on both sides of the pitch. Eggestein mainly focuses on the defensive end, tracking back time and time again to help his backline when need be. He’s still a key part of the offense, though, as his late runs into the area help create chances and goals for himself and his teammates.
He’s also been this good with a myriad of midfield partners, with the likes of Kevin Möhwald, Romano Schmid, Leonardo Bittencourt, Jean-Manuel Mbom, and Christian Groß all starting alongside him at some stage. Eggestein has stayed consistent throughout, and his performances this campaign might put him on the radar of other European clubs.
For now, he has to focus on Bremen to ensure that his side doesn’t fall into the bottom three. That starts with a result here, which would be huge in their fight to avoid relegation. If anyone’s going to be the hero for Die Grün-Weißen, it might end up being Eggestein once again.
Last time out
Berlin were victorious the last time these two sides last faced off as they beat Bremen 2-0 at the Wohninvest Weserstadion.
The away side would open the scoring early on after a devastating counter attack. A long ball played Taiwo Awoniyi into space, and he dribbled forward before laying the ball off to Sheraldo Becker. He did the rest, settling the pass before drilling a low shot into the back of the net.
A defensive mistake from Bremen led to Berlin’s second. A dreadful clearance from Marco Friedl was hit right at Robert Andrich, and he managed to redirect the ball towards Awoniyi, who poked it past the onrushing Jiří Pavlenka to somehow convert from close range.
Both sides had chances later on, and Bremen even had a goal called back for offside, but Berlin were ultimately able to secure the win and all three points.
How to watch
The contest won’t be broadcasted in the UK, but those in the United States will be able to watch the match live on ESPN+ at 9:30 a.m. EST.