Union Berlin and Bayer Leverkusen kick off their 2021/22 Bundesliga campaigns with a clash in the capital on Saturday at 2:30pm (UK time).
Both sides will be looking to improve on their finishes from last season which saw them qualify for the Europa League (Leverkusen) and Europa Conference League (Union).
Union Berlin vs Bayer Leverkusen live stream:
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Where to watch Union Berlin vs Bayer Leverkusen on TV:
- UK: N/A
- US: ESPN+
Scoreline prediction: Union Berlin 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen
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Union Berlin vs Bayer Leverkusen build-up, previous line-ups & injury news:
Union are one of the Bundesliga’s newer sides, only reaching the top flight in 2019, but they have been impressive and were deserving of their seventh-placed finish last season. As a result, Union also secured European football for the first time in the club’s history, qualifying for the Europa Conference League play-off round where they will face Finnish side KuPS. But before the first leg next week, Union start their third Bundesliga campaign against the team that finished one place above them last season despite the capital club going unbeaten in the two league meetings (one win, one draw).
For Leverkusen this is the start of a new era, with Gerard Seoane replacing interim Hannes Wolf following Peter Bosz’s departure in March. Although they did secure European football last season, the sixth-placed finish will have been hard to take considering Leverkusen were first and unbeaten going into their final game before the winter break, eventually losing five of their next seven. Seoane has already has his first competitive game in charge of Leverkusen, beating Lokomotive Leipzig 3-0 away from home in the first round of the DFB-Pokal.
- Union Berlin (vs Turkgucu Munchen): Luthe; Knoche, Baumgartl, Friedrich; Trimmel, Andrich, Khedira, Gießelmann; Kruse; Awoniyi, Voglsammer.
- Bayer Leverkusen (vs Lokomotive Leipzig): Hradecky; Frimpong, Retsos, Kossounou, Sinkgraven; Demirbay, Aranguiz; Bellarabi*, Amiri, Diaby; Schick.
Union go into their season opener without Leon Dajaku and Grischa Promel, while Sheraldo Becker is a doubt. Karim Bellarabi suffered an injury in the cup win over Lokomotive Leipzig and joins Lucas Alario, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Edmond Tapsoba on the sidelines.
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Players to watch:
- Union Berlin: Max Kruse was an excellent signing for Union last season, scoring 11 goals and recording five assists in the Bundesliga to help them secure European football, averaging one strike every 149 minutes (his second-best record in the Bundesliga). The 33-year-old then had a busy summer, named in German’s 23-man squad for the Olympics in Tokyo as one of the overage players, starting all three of their matches before their group stage exit. But that early exit has allowed Kruse to return to Union for the start of the new season, and he has already got off the mark for the 2021/22 campaign, netting the only goal in Union’s 1-0 win over Turkgucu Munchen in the first round of the DFB-Pokal. Kruse is also just one goal away from becoming Union’s joint-highest scorer in the Bundesliga, with Sebastian Andersson currently holding the club’s all-time record on 12.
- Bayer Leverkusen: Trying to score the goals for Leverkusen this weekend will be Patrik Schick who had an underwhelming 2020/21 but came to life at Euro 2020. In 29 Bundesliga appearance last season, Schick scored just nine goals, a disappointing return for a club’s main starting striker, especially as they did hold Champions League hopes early in the campaign. But the Czech Republic international used the international stage of Euro 2020 to showcase his quality, finishing as joint-top scorer at the tournament (five goals), only losing the Golden Boot to Cristiano Ronaldo due to his lack of assists. Schick’s five goals in five games helped Czech Republic reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020, with the 25-year-old only failing to find the net against England in their final group stage game. The striker also scored the best goal of the tournament, beating Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall from long distance.
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