Union Berlin go to Napoli on UEFA Champions League Matchday 4. - © Imago
Union Berlin go to Napoli on UEFA Champions League Matchday 4. - © Imago

5 reasons Union will beat Napoli in the UEFA Champions League


Union Berlin have lost their last 12 games in all competitions, but that doesn't mean they can't get back on the winning horse against Napoli in UEFA Champions League Group C. bundesliga.com explains why...

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1) Not playing as results might suggest

OK, Union are bottom of Group C after three matches - but that doesn't tell the tale of a trio of desperately unlucky defeats.

Die Eisernen shut out record European champions Real Madrid for over 90 minutes at the Santiago Bernabéu on Matchday 1, until a future Ballon d'Or winner, made in the Bundesliga, Jude Bellingham, produced a last-gasp winner.

Union went closer still in their last European fixture, taking a 2-0 lead before conceding three second-half goals, including another heart-breaking effort in added time, in defeat to Portuguese champions Braga. And they only lost by the odd goal at home to Napoli.

Although football is ultimately a results-based business, tournament new boys Union have shown they are more than capable of hanging with the best Europe has to offer. A maiden Champions League victory will be theirs sooner rather than later.

"There will be setbacks, but we will win again, head coach Urs Fischer said confidently following Union's 3-0 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. "The next game is always key."

Watch: This is Union Berlin

2) The Bonucci factor

Union's rise from east German also-rans to the Champions League group stage has seen them attract some big-name players, none more so than Italian great Leonardo Bonucci.

The 2020 UEFA Euro winner brings a wealth of experience to the table from his time at Juventus, where he won eight of his nine Serie A titles and reached the final of the Champions League.

One of the finest centre-backs of his generation and still a rock-solid marshall at the age of 36, his knowledge of the Italian game and language will be an additional boon for his new employers on Champions League Matchday 4.

Leonardo Bonucci (l.) moved to Union Berlin over the summer. - IMAGO/Jan Huebner

3) Goals from all angles

Despite their recent lean patch, Union are not short of goalscorers, either.

Sheraldo Becker hit a brace against Braga, while fellow striker Kevin Behrens recently earned a first Germany call-up for his four-goal start to the Bundesliga season. Midfielder Alex Král got in on the act against Dortmund on Matchday 7, with Bonucci also on target from the penalty spot. Ex-Atalanta and Inter Milan man Robin Gosens has even struck four times from left-back.

And it's surely only a matter of time before the dam breaks for fellow summer signings US international Brenden Aaronson, David Fofana and Kevin Volland, a scorer of five Europa League goals across the past two seasons for former employers Monaco.

Germany's Robin Gosens (l.) has made a big impact since joining Union. - IMAGO/Contrast

4) Pressure on/off

If Union lose, they will no long be able to reach the knockout rounds. A draw would also put last-16 qualification beyond them, but could keep them in the running for a place in the UEFA Europa League, depending on how Braga fare against Real in the section's other fixture.

In that sense, the pressure is on. On the other hand, Union are tournament debutants playing at the home of the Italian champions, who many will be expecting to get the job done. They'll certainly want to, in order to avoid any must-win scenarios in their final two fixtures.

However, the permutations could quite easily translate into home nerves, or even complacency, which Union have shown they know how to exploit since their promotion to the Bundesliga. Wins in 2022/23 over Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, and as well as a dogged draw with record champions Bayern Munich, are just some examples of the Berliners thriving in the role of underdog.

Watch: Union Berlin beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0 last season

5) No Osimhen

While Union were busy making history in last season's Bundesliga, Napoli ended a 33-year wait for the Serie A title. 

Ex-Wolfsburg forward Victor Osimhen scored 26 times for the Naples club, who sealed the deal with a record-equalling five rounds of fixtures to spare. The Nigerian was back among the goals in the early part of 2023/24 - something he failed to do in any of his 15 Bundesliga appearances for the Wolves between January 2017 and May 2018 - but is currently on the sidelines. 

Not many Bundesliga fans remember Victor Osimhen's (c.) 18-month stint at Wolfsburg. - Cathrin Müller /M.i.S./imago/MIS

Napoli ground out a win in Berlin without Osimhen, albeit at the home of city rivals Hertha. Union's own Stadion An der Alten Försterei would have been another proposition entirely. Indeed, the fervent Stadio Diego Armando Maradona - where Napoli have already lost three times this season - might be more to their liking.