Union Berlin: A break at the right time

TSG Hoffenheim's long winter break will end when the Bundesliga campaign resumes on Saturday (15:30 CET / Live Ticker at 1. FC Union Berlin will be the opponents in the first competitive match of the year. Having made a flying start to the season, Urs Fischer's team faltered towards the end of the first half-season and showed some uncharacteristic weaknesses. The winter break therefore came at a good time for the Iron Ones, whose preparations have gone swimmingly – even if there have been changes to the squad.

At the end of October, 1. FC Union Berlin were admiring the view from the summit: thanks to a last-minute 2-1 win against Borussia Mönchengladbach, the Köpenick club had held onto top spot. But only three rounds of games later, Union were down in fifth place and already seven points adrift of Bayern Munich in top spot. Freiburg, Leipzig and Frankfurt had joined the Bavarians in overhauling the capital club.

The three Bundesliga matches in November represented a stark contrast to previous performances: 5-0 in Leverkusen, 2-2 against Augsburg and 4-1 in Freiburg – Union conceded more goals in those three games (11) than they had in the 12 matches prior (9). The mini-crisis prompted coach Urs Fischer to work on tactical flexibility over the winter break. Union played with a back four in five of their six friendly fixtures a switch from the back three that had previously seemed set in stone under the Swiss tactician.

With six wins from as many friendlies, the break went swimmingly and the team is optimally prepared for the season restart. But Urs Fischer will have to make some tweaks to his line-up. The departure of Julian Ryerson to Borussia Dortmund has already been offset with the signing of Wolfsburg's Jerome Roussillon, but the Norwegian's presence on the left flank will be missed. But according to Fischer, Roussillon is not in contention for Saturday. Diogo Leite will also miss out against TSG, after his dismissal against Freiburg before the break, while Morten Thorsby and Andras Schäfer will be missing from central midfield with injuries. Sven Michel could not train this week due to illness and is also not an option for the squad. 

However, TSG would do well not to underestimate the capital club's strong team ethos. November is likely to have been just a slip-up – and has long since been dealt with.

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