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‘Continuity’ challengers Union, Freiburg pushing Bundesliga big guns

When Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich drew 2-2 last Saturday, it was the first time in 13 years neither side sat in the top two places during a ‘Klassiker’ meeting.

To keep the Bundesliga heavyweights off the summit, Union Berlin and Freiburg have shown continuity and consistency in a league which seems increasingly happy to chop and change. 

Union and Freiburg are the only two Bundesliga teams coached by managers who have been in the role longer than three years. 

Union’s Urs Fischer took over in 2018 and piloted their maiden charge to the first division. 

Freiburg’s Christian Streich has been in charge even longer, taking over in 2011 and staying put despite a relegation in 2014-15.

All four clubs are in action this Sunday, with Union hosting Dortmund and Freiburg travelling to Bayern. 

Speaking on Thursday, Streich said his side were not immune to the “feverish business” of football, but admitted “fortunately, there’s a little less of that for us in Freiburg.”

Streich however admitted that success plays a role, saying “there is only continuity in a club if a team achieves results that exceed expectations.”

In addition to inconsistent results, Freiburg’s opponents on this weekend are struggling for continuity on the pitch, with eight first-team players in doubt, including captain Manuel Neuer (shoulder), top scorer Jamal Musiala (Covid-19) and veteran forward Thomas Mueller (back). 

After Wednesday’s dominant Champions League win over Viktoria Plzen, second-year Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann said he wanted to use the Freiburg match “to go back in the right direction again in the Bundesliga.”

As for Union, they host Dortmund knowing they have already beaten their opponents twice in Berlin, with Dortmund’s solitary win coming last season. 

Despite some improved defensive stability this season illustrated by four 1-0 wins, Dortmund have conceded three goals on three occasions this year – losing each time. 

Alongside Freiburg, Union have the best record from dead-ball situations this season – a notorious weakness for Dortmund which defender Niklas Suele admitted they had to work on after conceding from a free-kick against Sevilla midweek. 

“We have to sit down together (on this), because it’s a lot to do with attitude.”

While the hype in the red and white corners of Berlin has been growing this season, Fischer said this week the Bundesliga summit meant little to him at this stage of the season. 

“For me, the table is particularly meaningful after the 34th (and last) matchday.”

One to watch: Sheraldo Becker

With six goals and three assists so far this season, Union Berlin’s Dutch-Surinamese forward Sheraldo Becker has been a major factor in the side’s table-topping form. 

The Amsterdam-born Becker spent 10 years with Ajax, before moving to Union in the summer of 2019 after stints at Den Haag and Zwolle. 

With Taiwo Awoniyi having made a big-money move from Union to Nottingham Forest ahead of the season, Becker has already struck up a partnership with the Nigerian’s replacement, American Jordan Siebatcheu, who has three goals and two assists of his own.

Key stats

1260 – Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham has played every minute of every game for his side this season, the only Dortmund player to do so. After his side’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Sevilla on Tuesday, he said simply “I’m tired.”

16 – Bayern Munich have 16 points after nine games, their lowest since 2010-11 – when a Jurgen Klopp-led Dortmund won the title.

0 – The number of Bundesliga wins Stuttgart have this season, making them the only side yet to record a victory. American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo was fired on Monday, with the club bringing in assistant Michael Wimmer on an interim basis.

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