Where Heart Meets Mind: Are new boys Union Berlin set to prolong Bundesliga stay?

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

They are the newest kids on the block in the Bundesliga and – as things stand – Union Berlin could just be here to stay for awhile longer.

Last summer, Union Berlin wrote a new chapter in their history books by winning promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time ever, in the process becoming the 56th club to grace the top flight of German football.

Their status as the new boys automatically meant that they were tipped to struggle, with some even assuming they were definitely heading back to the 2. Bundesliga after a solitary year.

Where Heart Meets Mind: 1. FC Union Berlin

However, with half the season gone, Union currently lie in 11th spot and are five points away from relegation zone ahead of the Ruckrunde, or the second half of the campaign.

Things did not start auspiciously for Die Eisernen as they were thrashed 4-0 by RB Leipzig on their Bundesliga debut, although they only had to wait a fortnight later for their first win and it came in style as they beat last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund 3-1.

Perhaps the naysayers should not have been so quick to write Union off given they do boast their fair share of personnel with top-flight experience, including Neven Subotic, Christian Gentner and Felix Kroos.

Still, it has been some of their lesser lights like Sebastian Andersson, Marius Bulter and Robert Andrich who have led the way and shown they deserve to be in the Bundesliga, displaying plenty of heart to get Union where they currently are.

But, if they are to remain in the top tier for another season at least, Die Eisernen will certainly have to show a cool and composed mind as well in the Ruckrunde.

THE HEART – SEBASTIAN ANDERSSON

It is not often that a team’s lone man in attarck can lay claim to be being the heartbeat of the side but, then again, Andersson is a throwback to the centre forwards of a bygone era.

Despite often being left to toil up front on his own, the Swede never tires being the first line of defence for Union, and is equally capable of battling against a couple of opponents once his team look for him when in possession.

In fact, there is no better one-on-one player in the competition at the moment with Andersson leading the way with 288 duels and 148 aerial duels won, 59 and 61 more than the next best respectively.

Yet, it is not just brute force that the 28-year-old provides with his team-high eight goals presently leaving him joint-6th in the scoring charts.

THE MIND – MARVIN FRIEDRICH

Before the start of the season, Subotic was highlighted as Union’s defensive lynchpin given his previous experience and status as a two-time Bundesliga champion with Borussia Dortmund.

While the Serb has played his part, it is Marvin Friedrich who has emerged as the team’s defensive general.

The 24-year-old has had to wait for his chance to establish himself in the top flight of German football having made just seven appearances for Schalke and then none for Augsburg, before deciding to try his luck in the second tier with Union.

Now, however, Union are showing they belong in the big time and, with his composure and excellent reading of the play, Friedrich is proving to be every bit a Bundesliga centre-back.

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