Under-fire Bayern Munich could not have picked a worse time to face surging outsider Union Berlin in a surprise Bundesliga top-of-the-table clash on Sunday.
That the German champion's domestic struggles -- Bayern has won just two of its last six in the league -- left the door open should not be surprising, but that underdog Union took up the mantle as challenger certainly is. The two teams meet in Munich locked on 43 points after 21 games, sitting alongside one of Europe's most in-form teams, Borussia Dortmund, in first place. Union could have made the trip south as outright leader but failed to defeat last-place team Schalke last Sunday, playing out a 0-0 stalemate.
That will be of little consolation to Bayern, which is usually well ahead in the league and focusing on Europe by now. On Wednesday, club boss Oliver Kahn accused the team of something not normally associated with the 32-time German champion: a lack of greed.
"It's the decisive phase of the season. It must be our goal to constantly deliver top performances," the CEO told German sport site Kicker. "It's about readiness, it's about greed, desire and a degree of calm. If we bring that, we're unbeatable."
Bayern will be without starting center back Dayot Upamecano, who is suspended after picking up a red card in his team's 3-2 loss at Gladbach on Sunday. Manager Julian Nagelsmann will, however, be on the sidelines against Union after he avoided a suspension for his "spineless" rant at the referee after the Gladbach loss. The manager, who apologized for the outburst, agreed to pay a 50,000 euro ($53,000) fine instead.
Union boss Urs Fischer, who brought the club up from the second division, showed little disappointment after his team missed its chance to go two points clear on Sunday, reminding his team and its fans how far it has come -- and where it is now.
"Beautiful tasks ahead," the Swiss manager said. "It's great. What more do you want?"
One to watch: Danilho Doekhi (Union Berlin)
Arriving at Union Berlin on a free transfer last summer from Eredivisie club Vitesse, Danilho Doekhi has swiftly become a mainstay in Fischer's starting XI. Few players embody the no nonsense, effective and efficient style of Union better than the Dutch center-back.
Since arriving in Koepnick, four of the five shots on goal Doekhi have taken have gone in - and all with his head. If the underdog is to snare a point or better against German soccer giant Bayern on Sunday, Doekhi —- half-jokingly referred to by Rani Khedira as "our savior again" after scoring in the Berlin derby -— must play a key role.
Friday: Mainz vs Borussia Moenchengladbach
Saturday: Hertha Berlin vs Augsburg, Hoffenheim vs Borussia Dortmund, Cologne vs Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen vs Bochum, RB Leipzig vs Eintracht Frankfurt, Schalke vs Stuttgart
Sunday: Freiburg vs Leverkusen, Bayern Munich vs Union Berlin
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