Union Berlin vs. Hertha Berlin: how do they compare?
Union Berlin host Hertha Berlin in what's sure to be a dramatic derby on the opening weekend of the new Bundesliga season. But how are both teams set for one of their biggest matches of the campaign?
The first opening-day city derby in the Bundesliga since 1965 - when 1860 Munich beat promoted Bayern Munich 1-0 at home - will take place in the German capital on Saturday. Union dominated the fixture last season, but much has changed at both clubs since then.
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bundesliga.com assesses the key talking points…
A new look
The price of Union once again upsetting the odds - this time by securing a top-five finish - has been the need to rebuild once again this summer. USA striker Jordan Siebatcheu heads the list of 10 new arrivals, with 15-goal Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi (Nottingham Forest) and eight-goal midfielder Grischa Prömel (Hoffenheim) among the notable departures.
Watch: Union won out when they last hosted Hertha
Siebatcheu landed in Berlin after a stellar 2021/22 season in Switzerland, where he scored 22 times for Young Boys to finish as the Swiss Super League's leading goalscorer. The 26-year-old, who also stuck five times in the UEFA Champions League, is already up and running for Union. He got an acrobatic equaliser in Monday's 2-1 extra-time win over fourth-tier Chemnitz in the DFB Cup first round.
There are also new faces in defence, where former Vitesse captain Danilho Doekhi and Portuguese centre-back Diogo Leite add competition for places. Paul Seguin (Greuther Fürth) and Morten Thorsby (Sampdoria) will bolster the centre of midfield, while Janik Haberer (three league goals for Freiburg last season), Jamie Leweling (five for Fürth) and Milos Pantovic (four for Bochum) all bring a goal threat. Winger Tim Skarke has joined from Bundesliga 2 side Darmstadt, while goalkeeper Lennart Grill has moved on loan from Bayer Leverkusen.
Hertha, meanwhile, have made changes on and off the pitch after flirting with relegation last term. Long-standing fan Kay Bernstein is the new president, while former Mainz boss Sandro Schwarz left Dynamo Moscow to return to German football. Wilfried Kanga will be looking to score more than his former Young Boys teammate Siebatcheu, while skilful Nigerian attacker Chidera Ejuke could help him do so. Former Schalke right-back Jonjoe Kenny has returned to the Bundesliga again after leaving Everton, while Croatian centre-back Filip Uremovic has moved from Rubin Kazan of Russia. His compatriot Ivan Sunjic has also arrived from Birmingham City to beef up the midfield. Alexander Schwolow (Schalke), Niklas Stark (Werder Bremen) and Santiago Ascacibar (Cremonese) are among the notable departures.
Check out Siebatcheu's first Union goal below!
Banking on experience
Union have a shrewd head coach in Urs Fischer, a man who first led the Berliners to promotion in 2019 and followed up with 11th, seventh and fifth-placed finishes in the Bundesliga. Despite the usual changing cast over the summer, the 56-year-old still has some knowledgeable campaigners to help the rest settle in. Club captain Christopher Trimmel and his wand of a right foot have been a fixture since 2014, while 30-year-old defender Robin Knoche has only missed one league outing in his two hugely successful years at the club. Suriname attacker Sheraldo Becker has three years of top-flight experience with the side behind him, while Rani Khedira started 32 Bundesliga matches in his first season at the club while looking he'd been in the Union midfield for much longer than that.
Hertha, meanwhile, needed to draw on all their know-how to avoid dropping into Bundesliga 2 at the end of last season. Defenders Dedryck Boyata (31) and Marvin Plattenhardt (30) got the goals that saw them past Hamburg in a play-off, with the latter taking over as captain for 2022/23 in place of the Belgium international. Fellow full-back Peter Pekarik (35) and midfielder Vladimir Darida (31) have already played 10 and seven seasons with the Old Lady, while 32-year-old Montenegro attacker Stevan Jovetic got six league goals in his first year in the capital. Staying on for one more season - and sure to be of vital importance on and off the field for the bigger games - is 35-year-old midfielder and Berlin native Kevin-Prince Boateng.
Union enjoyed their best season yet in 2021/22. Not only did they finish just one point off the top four and a place in the UEFA Champions League, but they also reached the last four of the DFB Cup.
Under Fischer the team based in the Köpenick area of southeast Berlin are famed for being compact, disciplined, hard working and extremely well organised. Last season only Bayern and RB Leipzig (both 37 goals conceded) had a better defence than 'Iron Union' (44), and they are hard to beat at the atmospheric Stadion An der Alten Försterei. On home turf last term Fischer's men won 10 league matches, drew five and only lost twice.
Hertha found Union particularly unpleasant to deal with, and goals from Awoniyi and Trimmel condemned them to a 2-0 away defeat on Matchday 12. Saturday's visitors fared little better at their own Olympiastadion. In January Andreas Voglsammer and Knoche were on the scoresheet in a 3-2 win for Union in the DFB Cup last 16, and in April - on Matchday 29 of the Bundesliga - they had an ever more resounding triumph. Genki Haraguchi, Prömel, Becker and Sven Michel all scored in a 4-1 victory.
Watch: Highlights from the last derby match
Three derby defeats from three means that Hertha have now only won three of 11 meetings of the sides. The last time the blue half of Berlin celebrated an away win in Köpenick, meanwhile, was a 2-1 Bundesliga 2 success in September 2012.
Hertha to hit back?
Last season was a continuation of a difficult period for Hertha. They have ended 10th, 14th and 16th in their last three Bundesliga campaigns, and their total of 33 points from 34 matches in 2021/22 was their worst top-flight haul for 10 years. The latter two seasons were the first time another Berlin club had finished above them in the Bundesliga.
They also had the second-worst defence in the division last term, conceding 71 goals. The Old Lady only managed 13 goals themselves in their 17 away matches in the league.
The first competitive game of this season was a rollercoaster ride for Hertha as they led 2-0 but were pegged back to 2-2 at the end of normal time in their cup tie at second-division Eintracht Braunschweig. Hertha then trailed, led again, and were ultimately held to a 4-4 draw at the end of extra-time. Plattenhardt and Marc-Oliver Kempf missed from the spot as Braunschweig went through 6-5 on penalties.
Hertha, then, will be determined to bounce back in their next match. And what better way to do it than in a derby?
"We have analysed the cup match and are now going into our preparation with excitement and belief in our own game plan," Hertha coach Schwarz said on Wednesday. "If we stick to it and play with confidence, we will be just fine."
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