- © DFL
- © DFL

Union Berlin vs. RB Leipzig: How do they stack up?


Matchday 3 will conclude with a fixture that already has tongues wagging and with two free-scoring teams ready to battle it out in the German capital, bundesliga.com assesses the terrain ahead of Union Berlin versus RB Leipzig.

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Union New Boys vs. The Leipzig Arrivals

With Union strengthening ahead of an unprecedented UEFA Champions League campaign and Leipzig replacing a couple of departing Bundesliga behemoths prior to the start of the 2023/24 season, both sides seemed set for a period of transition. Nothing of the sort. The sight of new signings hitting the ground running on both sides has been one of the stand-out features of this incredible campaign to date and it will provide one more reason not to miss what promises to be a magnificent Matchday 3 encounter.

Bundesliga leaders after two games, Union are the division's highest scorers with eight goals from their opening top-flight fixtures and two of them were scored by Robin Gosens in an electrifying first start for the Irons against Darmstadt last weekend.

The 29-year-old arrival from Inter Milan tore it up down the left for Urs Fischer's men last Saturday, the Germany international opening proceedings with a thrilling first goal and an overall electrifying display that propelled Union's 10 men to a victory that ultimately left the The Lilies limp with exhaustion.

Watch: Union's insane efficiency 

Loan signing Alex Kral - who spent last season at Schalke - has proved a steady hand in midfield for Die Eisernen, while up front Chelsea loanee David Datro Fofana has provided strength, awareness and pace with the Berliners picking up where they left off last season, when Union finished fourth.

Kevin Volland has also had his part to play from the bench since arriving from Monaco, with the ex-Bayer Leverkusen man popping up with an assist in Union's 4-1 opening victory against Mainz. Things could hardly have gone any better for Fischer & Co. so far, and when you add in a 4-0 victory against Astoria-Walldorf in the DFB Cup first round, it means that the side from Germany's capital have scored 12 goals in their three competitive fixtures to date.

Leipzig may have suffered a blip in their start to the season - namely a 3-2 reverse against Leverkusen on Matchday 1 - yet Marco Rose's men already have a trophy to show for their efforts in the current campaign. 

Watch: Supercup champions Leipzig delight in Munich 

An excellent 3-0 victory at the home of the Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich just a few weeks ago saw the Saxony-based side add the Supercup to the DFB Cup, which they won last May. Posting their first Bundesliga win this season with a come-from-behind 5-1 drubbing of previous league leaders VfB Stuttgart last time out saw Leipzig recover in some style to that Leverkusen setback. 

Among the key figures in the two aforementioned wins were Xavi Simons and Lois Openda, players brought in during the summer to fill the immense gaps left by Dominik Szoboszlai and Christopher Nkunku. Simons - on loan at Leipzig from Paris Saint-Germain - has taken to Saxony like a duck to water and can already boast a goal involvement every 73 minutes.

Openda has celebrated his move to the Bundesliga from Lens with two goals in his two games to date in Germany's top division. With the likes of Benjamin Sesko, Christoph Baumgartner, Nicolas Seiwald and Fabio Carvalho also bedding in at the club following respective transfers, Sunday's encounter against Union really will be a who's who of new faces.

Xavi Simons has enjoyed an impressive start to life at Leipzig. - Getty Images

Game changers: Kevin Behrens vs. Dani Olmo

Step forward two of 2023/24's most iconic players so far. Both already have competitive hat-tricks to their names in the opening weeks of the season and both will be eager to continue their blistering form when Union face Leipzig at the weekend.

Olmo has been simply sensational, netting an unforgettable Allianz Arena treble as Die Roten Bullen won the Supercup for the very first time on 12 August. The manner in which he dispatched his second of the three against Bayern will make it one of the must-see strikes of the season when the campaign reaches its conclusion next May. The Spain international has scored in every Leipzig game this season and has already matched his total for 2022/23, when he weighed in with five goals. Simply put, peak Olmo is prime-time viewing right now. 

Watch: Union's Darmstadt delight 

"In principle, [Timo Werner] switches position with Dani Olmo when we have the ball: as a result, Dani is able to find himself in the half spaces more often rather than operating at the very top of the pitch," Leipzig coach Rose explained of his star man's role this term.

For Union's Behrens, things have been a little more straightforward tactically. The 32-year-old has been up front and going in search of goals and how the veteran forward - in his third season with the Berliners - has enjoyed finding them. Few, if any, would have predicted the Bremen native would be the Bundesliga's joint-top scorer after the opening two rounds of matches but with his hat-trick in Mainz and follow-up goal against Darmstadt, Behrens finds himself top of the goalscoring pile alongside Wolfsburg's Jonas Wind.

Amazingly, all four of Behrens's goals have been headers and it's a case of Leipzig beware this weekend, as the striker has won every game he has played against Die Roten Bullen, scoring once in four victories.

Watch: Kevin Behrens - hat-trick hero 

Head-to-head: Union hold sway

Sunday's hosts have started a Bundesliga season with maximum points from two games for the first time and they will take added confidence ahead of the contest thanks to a handsome record against Sunday's visitors to the Alte Försterei. In what is one more eye-opening stat to this game, Union have won the last five Bundesliga meetings between the sides, and all by the same scoreline: 2-1, which is unprecedented in the league. 

Another factor Leipzig must battle against is Union's current record at home, which is hugely impressive. The Irons are unbeaten in their last 24 Bundesliga matches in their own back yard, a club record and the best sequence in the division right now.

In Leipzig's favour are Werner's numbers against Sunday's opponents. The Germany international has found the net three times in his last four outings against Die Eisernen. And the last visiting coach to win at the Alte Försterei in the Bundesliga was in fact Leipzig's Rose, while in charge of Borussia Dortmund in February 2022. 

Watch: Union celebrated when last they met Leipzig 

Motivating factors: Urs Fischer vs. Marco Rose

This is the first time in the Bundesliga this season that two of Germany's Champions League contenders will meet. That both are competing in European football's elite competition is, of course, in no small part down to the teams' respective coaches. Fischer took charge of Union back in June 2018 when the team were in the second division.

Winning promotion in his first campaign was just the beginning for the tactician, who went on to take the capital club to the top of the Bundesliga standings and into European competition in subsequent campaigns. Leading the side to fourth last term meant a first Champions League qualification and his exciting team are showing no signs of slowing down this season. 

"I have to pay the team huge credit for their mentality and morale," the 57-year-old said of his side's ability to post a 4-1 win against Darmstadt, despite playing with ten men last weekend. "They somehow put that setback to one side, absorbing it as a team. The way the boys  performed is a step in the right direction."

Urs Fischer (l.) and Marco Rose are all set for one more meeting on Sunday. - imago images/Contrast

Rose also has the good ship Leipzig sailing serenely after leading the men from Saxony to a couple of major honours in quick succession. The Leipzig-born tactician took up the reins of his hometown club only last September but his influence and tactical know-how is already stamped across the team and that they began the current season as one of the title favourites is down to the ex-Dortmund coach's immense efforts.

“Our lives are dependent on results and results determine the team’s morale," Rose said recently. "We find ourselves in a transitional period and perhaps just need some time [but] we have brought in quality and will continue to be ambitious. We just won the Supercup, which we can be proud of."

With two ambitious coaching task masters ready to pit their respective high-scoring sides against one another, Sunday's resulting impact could be explosive.