In their first match under Marco Grote, 1.FC Union Berlin will host FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga on Saturday, 25. November 2023. Kick off at the Stadion an Der Alten Försterei is at 15:30.
The lie of the land
Following a poor start to the season that saw just one win from seven league games, Augsburg’s head coach Enrico Maaßen was sacked in October and replaced by Dane Jess Thorup. So far, the change has had the desired effect. The team from the Fuggerstadt are still unbeaten under Thorup, having picked up eight points from four games and scoring ten goals in the process. The team's morale is also noteworthy, as they have managed to score in all four games after falling behind. Most recently, FCA fought their way to a 1-1 draw at home against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
Coach Thorup was in charge of the Danish U21s between 2013 and 2015; he was voted Denmark's Coach of the Year in 2013. He went on to take over at FC Midtjylland and FC Copenhagen, leading both clubs to the championship. However, he was sacked just a few months after winning the title with FCK in September 2022. His disappointment was tempered by the steep learning curve he knew he was on, saying, "As a coach in Denmark, FC Copenhagen and the national team are the biggest things... You think you're important, and then suddenly you're a little man - that's football and I know that."
In his first two games on the FCA bench, the 53-year-old and his team picked up two important victories, the brilliant 5-2 win against 1. FC Heidenheim followed by a 3-2 home win against VfL Wolfsburg. Their focal point is Bosnian international Ermedin Demirovic, who scored the third against Heidenheim, has already scored six and assisted another three goals this season. But despite this Augsburg have proved to be vulnerable at the back, conceding on average 2.09 goals per game and are yet to keep a single clean sheet.
Union will face an old acquaintance in the return of Sven Michel on Saturday. The striker wore the Union no. 11 shirt between 2022 and 2023, playing 44 competitive matches and scoring nine goals. He has made ten appearances for his new club so far, scoring one goal, and, at 33 years and three months, is also the oldest player to have featured for FCA this season.
Rani Khedira also played in 127 competitive fixtures for Union’s guests between 2017 and 2021 before coming to Berlin for the 2021/22 season.
The head to head
Of their twelve matches, Union have only won once (a 2-0 home win in January 2020), while Augsburg have won five.
Danilho Doekhi, Leonardo Bonucci and Sheraldo Becker will not be available on Saturday due to injury, while Rani Khedira is still suspended for Saturday's match following his red card in the game against Werder Bremen.
The coaches’ views ahead of the match
"Over the past few days, we've had a lot of conversations and exchanged ideas with the players,” said Union coach, Marco Grote during his first weekly press conference on Thursday afternoon. “It's about using every hour sensibly to give the team a positive feeling and prepare them in the best possible way. Against Augsburg, we want to regain what has always characterised Union in defence and also create one or two more options in attack."
He ended with an impassioned call to arms for everyone who will be in the stadium on Saturday. "The players will need this strength, this vigour, this support that can be ignited here at the weekend. They need it from the coaching team, the staff and everyone else who comes here on Saturday. The players want it, the players are on fire, but they need us right from the start. I would hope that even if one or two of them are still sad, they will support the team with all their might."
His opposite number, Jess Thorup, meanwhile was looking forward to returning to the Bundesliga after the international break. "We've picked up eight points and are still unbeaten, and the data is also positive. But: We can't sit back, we must always have the desire to win... I'm looking forward to the away game in Berlin and hope that many fans will be there. I'm expecting a competitive match and we have to be ready for that."
The match is sold out and will be broadcast live on Sky. There will also be an audio stream on rbb24 Inforadio and rbb24. As usual, Union will also provide information about the match in the club's own live ticker.