The Bundesliga race across Europe: Union Berlin watch the hat-trick alongside established names

When Union Berlin qualified for the UEFA Europa Conference League in 2020, some eyebrows were raised. Those fell after Urs Fischer steered Die Eisernen to the UEFA Europa League last summer, and he is on pace to complete a European qualifications hat-trick in as many years.

With the top four teams qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, Union might even dine at the top table of European football next season, but there are a host of more established clubs joining them in the hunt for seven football tickets. continental next season. closely follows the race for Europe behind the current top four of Bayern Munich, Freiburg, RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt…

union berlin
Position: 5th (UEFA Europa League)
Points: 27
Goals: 24-20 (+4)

Pacesetters for much of the season, Union’s fortunes were fading heading into the winter break. Never before have Urs Fischer’s charges led the Bundesliga so late in the season as they did on Matchday 12, but a 5-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 13 saw them knocked down from the top, and a proverbial bubble seemed to be bursting.

After drawing 2-2 with Augsburg, they ended 2022 with a 4-1 loss at Freiburg. Winter break arguably came at a perfect time for Fischer to hit the reset button. However, beating Borussia Dortmund 2-0, Leipzig 2-1 and drawing 1-1 with Bayern doesn’t happen by chance, and Fischer will have spent the two-month hiatus reviewing what his team did so well in those games. to restore shape heading into the new year.

First, the focus will be on the rehabilitation of Sheraldo Becker, who scored six and provided four assists in the first seven games of the season but has only scored once since. The tricky 27-year-old Dutch striker isn’t the only star striker in need of a boost, as Jordan also shot off following his summer switch from Young Boys only to stutter later. The USMNT juggernaut scored two and assisted two more in the first four games of the season, but since then he has only one goal and one assist. If both ends of Union’s attack can start to pierce through defenses again, there’s no reason why Union can’t take the next step up the European ladder with Champions League football in 2023.

Borussia Dortmund
Position: 6th (UEFA Europa Conference League)
Points: 25
Goals: 25-21 (+4)

Bayern’s closest rivals for most of their decade-long dominance of German soccer, and the last team to beat them to the title in 2012, Dortmund have some ground to make up for the current league leaders, with a result in the top four at least. aim for blacks and yellows.

With a player of the caliber of Jude Bellingham on the books, anything less would be a huge disappointment. Bellingham excelled at the World Cup in Qatar, drawing widespread praise as England’s key player, despite the fact that he is only 19 years old. He has been equally influential at the heart of Dortmund’s midfield this season, with his three goals barely scratching the surface of all he has done for BVB in over 100 competitive appearances – so much so that he has already been given the captain’s armband, more than six months before leaving his adolescence behind.

He has won the most games in the entire Bundesliga (245-44 more than Gladbach’s Kouadio Kone) and has become the beating heart of a Dortmund team that can beat anyone on its day. However, they continue to be plagued by inconsistencies, with losses to Wolfsburg and Gladbach seeing them finish 2022 two points out of the top four when wins in those games would have left them a solid second. Head coach Edin Terzic will be keen to reignite the Klassiker spirit that saw them draw at the last breath with Bayern on Matchday 9, and keep it alive until the end of the season as Dortmund aim to keep his rivals alert.

Position: 7th
Points: 23
Goals: 24-20 (+4)

Wolfsburg manager Niko Kovac was in full tension as Wolves struggled to find their place in the opening weeks of the season, picking up just two points from the first five games and slipping to 17th place. Eintracht Frankfurt eventually put a ‘1’ in the win column, although a subsequent 2-0 loss at Union Berlin hinted it might have been just the once.

However, since that defeat in mid-September, Wolfsburg is unbeaten. With five wins and three draws, he has climbed the ranks to close the year in what, just they dropped their three-man defense in favor of a four-man back line, with full-backs Ridle Baku and Paulo Otavio offering plenty of attacking support. Captain Maximilian Arnold has been forced to play a deeper role in midfield and for many it was unfortunate to miss out on a call-up to Germany’s World Cup squad. His vision and delivery of his line-breaking passes have been one of the keys to Wolfsburg’s turnaround and have put the bite back into Wolves’ game.

Borussia Monchengladbach
Position: 8th
Points: 22
Goals: 28-24 (+4)

With no European distractions, Daniel Farke took charge of Gladbach in the summer with the aim of returning them to Europe next season, and early signs were extremely promising. Two wins and two draws in the first four games of the season, including a 1-1 away win against Bayern Munich, fueled Borussia’s faith. A 1-0 defeat at home to Mainz proved to be no more than a stumbling block, as the Foals followed up with a respectable draw at Freiburg and an impressive 3-0 win over Leipzig.

However, there have been four defeats since Matchday 7, and Farke hopes his team can bounce back from the 4-2 win over Dortmund that concluded 2022, and that Marcus Thuram returns from the World Cup with France in the same way you did. he was there when he left Germany in November. He has 10 Bundesliga goals this season and benefits from the creativity and support of Lars Stindl and Jonas Hofmann, who have five and four assists respectively.

With the fourth best attack in the league after 15 games (28 goals), Gladbach can be confident of returning to Europe next season, with their options still open as to which competition it will be.

werder bremen
Position: 9th
Points: 21
Goals: 25-27 (-2)

Going straight from promotion to Europe doesn’t happen often, but Werder are well on their way to making it happen in 2023, and they have one man in particular to thank for it. Niclas Füllkrug was the main architect of Bremen’s promotion campaign last season, with 19 goals and eight assists. He has shown that he was not just a Bundesliga 2 player this season, he scored 10 goals in 14 games, making him the German with the most goals in the Bundesliga (and in all major European leagues). He, too, scored two in brief substitute appearances at the World Cup, returning to Bremen a hero, despite Germany’s group stage knockout.

Named Bundesliga Player of the Month for September and October, it’s no surprise the Weser-Stadion faithful are dreaming of a return to European football for the first time in over a decade, having finished bottom of a group that includes Inter from Milan, Tottenham Hotspur and Twente. in the Champions League and a certain Claudio Pizarro led his attack.

He’s not doing it all alone, though, with Marvin Ducksch, his partner-in-crime from Bundesliga 2, also chipping in with three goals. Further back, former Bayern youth producer Mitchell Weiser is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career, with six assists so far coming from a wide-adapted role, and right at the back goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka is handling a very tight ship: all the ingredients to successfully boost European football next season.

Also in the hunt: Mainz (19 points), Hoffenheim (18), Bayer Leverkusen (18), Cologne (17)

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