Germany: Bundesliga
2 - 0
(0 - 0)
Union Berlin
P. Tietz (47), S. Michel (81)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Bjelica discusses squad absentees, hints at start for Haberer at left-back

Facing a depleted Augsburg side in tomorrow evening's 2023/24 German Bundesliga match-day 29 curtain-raiser, 1. FC Union Berlin trainer Nenad Bjelica discussed his own personnel woes at a Thursday presser.


FC Augsburg trainer Jess Thorup continues to face personnel shortages ahead of tomorrow evening's league match-up against Union Berlin. The absences that led the FCA trainer to roll out what proved to be a tactically disastrous opening constellation against Hoffenheim persist. Fullbacks Kevin Mbabu and Iago remain questionable with injuries. Midfield linchpin Kristijian Jakic - subbed off early in the Hoffenheim defeat - also remains a doubt.

Thorup may have to turn to a pair of underutilized summer signings, former Darmstadt central defender Patric Pfeiffer and former Karlsruhe SC midfielder Tim Breithaupt (who came on in place of Jakic) in order to field a workable XI. With right back Robert Gumny still out with an ACL tear, there will at the very least be an unnatural right back filling in on the right side of defense.

Opponents Union may nevertheless be unable to take advantage of this as they are missing their two regular left fullbacks/wingbacks themselves. Robin Gosens must serve a suspension brought on by his red card last week. FCU trainer Nenad Bjelcia confirmed that alternative options Jerome Roussillon and Josip Juranovic remain out. Squad captain Christopher Trimmel is the only natural wingback Bjelica can turn to.

The Croatian gaffer was forthcoming about the possibility of deploying Janik Haberer as his left wingback, calling the 30-year-old a "tactically gifted" candidate for the position. Haberer would ordinarily serve in midfield behind the top attacking axis. Bjelica has problems in this area too as Lucas Tousart (also suspended) and Yorbe Vertessen (thigh issues) are unavailable.

Bjelica could deploy the young Danish striker who replaced Vertessen, Mikkel Kaufmann, in central attack. The FCU trainer nonetheless also noted that he was "delighted" to have Kevin Volland once again available to start. The 15-times-capped German international had to sit out last week's meeting with his former club Leverkusen with injury.

"Even with so many absentees, we will try to play our game," Bjelica said on Thursday, "If we [currently on 29 points] If we get to 38 points, we're mathematically certain to stay in the league. Maybe even with 34 points. But we're not going to make any plans, instead just focusing on the next game."

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