7 straight losses give Union Berlin a dose of reality after years of over-achievement
Thu, Oct 19, 2023
Soccer News (AP)
BERLIN (AP) - Seven straight losses in all competitions have brought Union Berlin back to reality after years of over-achievement.
Since clinching Bundesliga promotion for the first time in 2019, Union had only experienced one highlight after another - culminating in a remarkable fourth-place finish and Champions League qualification last season.
But this season hasn't gone so well.
"In the last years we always needed the words ' surreal ' and 'crazy.' Maybe now we need the word 'reality' for where we are," Union coach Urs Fischer said Thursday.
It could get worse before it gets better. Union next hosts second-place Stuttgart in the Bundesliga on Saturday before facing Italian champion Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Union's first experiences in Europe's premier competition are bitter. Jude Bellingham scored in the fourth minute of injury time for Real Madrid to snatch a 1-0 win in Union's debut, then Braga did likewise to win 3-2 in Union's first home game in the competition.
The Bundesliga has arguably provided more disappointment. Leipzig produced a 3-0 victory to end Union's club-record 24-game unbeaten run at home in early September and the team has lost every game since.
"We have to remain positive," Fischer said, noting that the team has also performed well despite the unwanted results. "We have to make fewer individual mistakes and be more stable. The two issues are connected somehow."
Injuries to midfielder Rani Khedira and defender Robin Knoche have not helped, but Fischer said they could return on Saturday. Croatia defender Josip Juranovic returned injured from international duty and will miss the game against Stuttgart.
"It doesn't help us, but we have to accept it," Fischer said.
Union's formerly reliable defense is conceding goals that it didn't allow last season. Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci has had an unfortunate start since he joined from Juventus in the offseason.
In attack, too, Union is not as effective as it was last season. Kevin Behrens, who made his Germany debut against Mexico on Tuesday, netted four goals in Union's first two Bundesliga games but hasn't scored since.
Union's other six goals in the league were scored by defenders - including four from Germany left back Robin Gosens.
Gosens was taken off early with a thigh problem during Germany's 2-2 draw with Mexico and may miss Saturday's game against Stuttgart.
Both Gosens and Bonucci will need to improve at the back if Union is to stop Stuttgart forward Serhou Guirassy from adding to his 13 goals in seven league matches so far.
Guirassy's goals have helped Stuttgart - which struggled last season - win its last five games. Stuttgart has never beaten Union in the Bundesliga before.
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