Germany: Bundesliga
1 - 0
(0 - 0)
Union Berlin
FC Köln
T. Awoniyi (49)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Baumgart declares key players fit ahead of reunion with Union and Michel

Steffen Baumgart had much better injury news to report in his Thursday presser ahead of Friday's showdown with 1. FC Union Berlin. 

The former FCU captain again returns to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei, this time to square off against one of his old regulars. 
In stark contrast to the situation just before the international break, Köln head-coach Steffen Baumgart doesn't have injury worries at the six-position. Speaking at his final pre-match presser on Thursday afternoon, the team trainer declared both Ellyes Skhiri and Salih Özcan fit for the Friday visit to 1. FC Union Berlin. Dejan Ljubicic, Kingsley Schindler, Tim Lemperle, Florian Kainz and the newly released from COVID quarantine Louis Schaub should also be available.

Apart from Benno Schmitz (recently returned from a knee injury) and sick back-up keeper Timo Horn, Baumgart should be able to draw from a full compliment of players when building his matchday squad. The return of so many attack-minded players constitutes immensely good news for the Effzeh trainer. His team has only scored six goals in their last seven league fixtures.

"We need to find new approaches," Baumgart remarked when asked about his sputtering attack, also noting, "We still have a good points haul against the top teams and our performances have been on the level."

Hosts Union Berlin have had their own struggles with the attack recently. After the departure of talismanic striker Max Kruse, Urs Fischer's Eisernen went three league fixtures without scoring a goal. The Köpenickers actually have only scored more than one goal in a game ince since Kruse left. The FCU's record in the last seven fixtures (five goals) is slightly worse than Köln's.

Baumgart seemed prepared to give his opponents the benefit of the doubt.

"It also works without Max Kruse," he remarked.

The Köln trainer perhaps remained cautious knowing that he could square off against Kruse's replacement Sven Michel, for years a lead-striker under Baumgart at SC Paderborn 07. While Michel hasn't hit his stride at his new club, his old coach certainly knows what he's capable of.

"When I first came to Paderborn, I mostly played on the left wing," Michel noted in an interview with German footballing magazine Kicker earlier in the week, "Steffen made me a striker again. If he hadn't done that, I don't know if I'd be sitting here now. He saw something."

"Steffen always gives full-throttle 110 percent and more no matter what the score is," Michel also said of his former coach, "He picks you up and lights a spark in a team. Everyone climbs on board with him and remains behind him. That's what he does."

Baumgart's trip to the station An der alten Försterei also counts as a homecoming of sorts. The man some in German footballing circles refer to as "The Beast from the East" captained  die Eisernen from 2002 to 2004 during a briefly successful time for the club in German second division.

Knowing something about what it feels like to play in front of the Union ultras, Baumgart noted that he had informed his players about what the atmosphere will feel like. The stadium will be packed after the recent nixing of COVID restrictions.

"If I could pick a match for a Friday night, I'd pick ours," the trainer noted, "The players should really look forward to it. It's simply a beautiful experience and the stadium environment will definitely be right."

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