Bayern Munich's match against 1. FC Union Berlin tomorrow suddenly has the air of a "do or die" for Bayern's hopes of winning their 12th consecutive Bundesliga title, after an inexplicable loss to Werder Bremen on Sunday. If Bayern fails to win, they will trail leaders Bayer Leverkusen by a minimum of six points, and will no longer have a game in hand. Unfortunately, their match against Union no longer seems like the walk in the park it might have been in December. Here's two problems Bayern could face against Die Eisernen, and one thing Bayern has going in their favor, from someone who regularly watches both Bayern and Union games.
Union need all the points they can get
This season has not been as kind to Union Berlin as their previous Bundesliga adventures. One year after finishing fourth and qualifying for the Champions League, Union find themselves in 15th, out of the DFB-Pokal at the hands of VfB Stuttgart, and out of Europe after a last-place finish in a group featuring Real Madrid, Napoli, and Braga — who finished behind Union in their Europa League group last season. In total, Die Eisernen lost 12 consecutive matches, and went 16 matches without a win. For those keeping track of the calendar, they won exactly zero of their matches in September, October, and November. They've also parted ways with manager Urs Fischer, who will go down as a club legend despite leaving near the end of that dismal run of form. New manager Nenad Bjelica has improved the club's form, but Union continue to flirt with the bottom three. Expect a strong performance from a side looking to avoid the relegation conversation, even if they have the upper hand for now.
Union's winter transfer activity has been encouraging
Here are the highlights: Sheraldo Becker (contract expiring in the summer), Leonardo Bonucci (played very few minutes), and David Datro Fofana (recalled from loan) have departed to Real Sociedad, Fenerbahçe, and Chelsea respectively, while Kevin Vogt (from Hoffenheim) and Chris Bedia (from Servette in Switzerland) have joined. Bedia has not played yet — more on that in a moment — but scored 10 goals in 17 appearances in the Swiss Super League this season. Vogt played all 90 minutes in a 0–0 draw against Freiburg on 13 January, and was one of Union's better players, looking perfectly settled in Bjelica's tactical system. The three departures, meanwhile, had relatively disappointing Hinrunden, although Fofana had a historic moment, scoring Union's first ever Champions League goal against Napoli. Meanwhile, Vogt's former club lost 3–0 to Bayern the weekend he debuted for Die Eisernen. Expect to see a much-improved defensive effort from the opposition, and potentially for Bedia to start alongside summer signing Kevin Volland in Union's two-striker system.
This is no longer an absolute must-win for Union
The reason why Bedia did not make his debut this weekend was because Union did not play. Their matchup against Mainz — sitting one place and three points behind Union — was postponed due to snow and ice. As a result, Union have played one game less than Bayern and two less than the rest of the table. Even three points from these two games would go a long way to helping their survival chances, meaning that this match is not as much of a "do or die" for them as it might have been in December. Still, don't expect this to be a walk in the park for Die Roten.
Union XI (5-3-2): Rønnow - Leite, Vogt, Knoche - Roussillon (c), Juranović - Král, Haberer, Aaronson - Bedia, Volland
Out: Khedira (calf), Laïdouni (AFCON)
Bayern XI (4-2-3-1): Neuer (c) - Davies, de Ligt, Upamecano, Laimer - Goretzka, Kimmich - Sané, Musiala, Müller - Kane
Out: Sarr (ACL), Gnabry (adductor), Mazraoui (calf/AFCON), Peretz (knee), Kim (Asian Cup)
Score: Union make it close, but Bayern get the job done. I would not put any money on this, however. We know how inspiring Bayern's performances have been. Bayern Munich 2 – 1 Union Berlin