The goals of ex-Liverpool striker Taiwo Awoniyi have Union Berlin in contention for a second successive season of European football.
bundesliga.com checks in with Die Eisernen, who occupy seventh place in the standings halfway into 2021/22...
The story so far
Union's reward for finishing seventh last season was a place in the innaugural UEFA Europa Conference League. The additional workload has been known to take its toll on less-experienced continental competitors, but head coach Urs Fischer turns out to be a skilled juggler. Although Union didn't make it beyond the Conference League groups, there's every chance they'll be granted another tilt next term. The Berlin club are only outside the top six on goal difference, and sit just a point behind the UEFA Champions League places. They've claimed 18 of their 27-point total on home turf, while defeat to Bayern Munich was their first Bundesliga loss at the fortress Försterei since 19 September 2020. There's also the small matter of their DFB Cup last-16 tie with neighbours Hertha Berlin still to come.
Awoniyi is one big reason by Union are able to mix it in the upper reaches of the Bundesliga. He's scored nine times this term, already besting his previous single-season best of seven goals in the colours of Belgian side Mouscron. League wide, only Robert Lewandowski (19), Patrik Schick (16) and Erling Haaland (13) have found the back of the net more often, but he is set to miss a handful of fixures in early 2022 after being called up to Nigeria's AFCON squad.
Best game so far
It was Awoniyi who paved the way for Union's 2-0 win over Hertha on Matchday 12, in the fifth Berlin derby of the Bundesliga era. It marked the East Berliners' biggest top-flight victory against their city rivals, and helped Awoniyi move above teammate Max Kruse as the club's record top-flight scorer (currently 15 goals).
Watch: Union 2-0 Hertha - highlights
One to watch
Kruse was Union's 11-goal top scorer in 2020/21, the former Germany international punching their ticket to Europe with the winner against RB Leipzig on the final day. He's had a direct hand in seven goals halfway into the current campaign, with two of his own and one assist across his last four outings setting him up nicely for a bumper new year.
Watch: Max Kruse fired Union to victory in Bochum on Matchday 17
The view from inside the camp
"We fight for each other. It's a team sport. Every striker loves to score, you want to score to help your team. When we work together as a team, fighting together - that's success. That's where I get my power and strength from." - Awoniyi
Bayer Leverkusen (a) - Matchday 18
Hertha Berlin (a) - DFB Cup last 16
Hertha - Matchday 29
Union are not the best travellers, but a positive result away to Bayer Leverkusen in their first game back will set Fischer's men up nicely for the Rückrunde. Awoniyi will still be missing when Union make the short trip to Hertha in the DFB Cup quarter-finals, but he'll get the chance to play at the Olympic Stadium at least once more. Twice, if Union can go the distance in the cup.