In the wake of the three-match suspension imposed on head coach Nenad Bjelica amid the Bundesliga relegation struggle, 1. FC Union Berlin is now faced with the challenge of persevering without the guidance of their captain, Christopher Trimmel. The experienced 36-year-old player was handed a red card during the team’s 2-0 loss against Rasenballsport Leipzig, implying his absence from the pivotal relegation battle against FSV Mainz scheduled for this Wednesday at 6.30 p.m.
Discussing the impact of Trimmel’s suspension, assistant coach Marie-Louise Eta, during a press conference held on Sunday evening, stated, “That is a significant blow. His absence will be deeply felt. Trimmel is a player who shoulders a great deal of responsibility both on and off the field. However, given the circumstances, he will now only be able to contribute from the sidelines.” The absence of Trimmel is particularly detrimental for Union as Josip Juranovic, the regular player on the right-side, has been absent from the last three games owing to a muscle injury. If Juranovic were to also miss the game against Mainz, this would necessitate some quick improvisation from the Berliners.
On Sunday, some light was shed on the future of under-fire coach Bjelica. Following the avoidance of making any clear statements by club officials in the week and a half since Bjelica’s failure against Leroy Sané, President Dirk Zingler finally broke his silence during a comment on Dazn on the sidelines of the game against Leipzig. Zingler said, “We have signed Nenad Bjelica with the hope that he can keep us in the class. I believe that the decision on this will not be made until May. Therefore, I assume he’ll still be present on the pitch even then.”
The controversy surrounding Bjelica’s position at Union sparked a public debate. Zingler defended the situation saying he was currently “very satisfied with the internal climate” in the team. Responding to reports of tension between the coach and some players, he said: “So far not a single player has sought to talk to me about this. This is enough evidence that everything written about it has very little to do with reality.” He added that it’s normal for not all players to be satisfied with a coach.
In the game against Darmstadt, Bjelica was not allowed to enter the interior of the stadium in Leipzig. Despite the recent upward trend, Union traveled to Leipzig as feared opponents and had won the last two games in the central stadium 2-1. However, the Saxons managed to secure their first victory in 2024.
The game on Wednesday now takes on even greater significance for us.
Alexander Schwolow discussing the impending duel with Mainz 05
Alexander Schwolow, who made his competitive debut, lamented, “Overall, we allowed too much. It’s frustrating that we conceded two goals from set pieces. With a bit more precision and determination, we could have shown more offensive prowess. Now the game on Wednesday has become even more crucial for us.” Schwolow, who moved from Hertha BSC to Union in the summer, stepped in at short notice to replace the ill Frederik Rönnow as goalkeeper. Diogo Leite was also absent due to health reasons, but Danilho Doekhi made a comeback after more than two months due to injury. The fitness status of Rönnow and Leite for Wednesday’s game remains uncertain.
Defender Robin Knoche was also disappointed with the defeat. “We conceded two standard goals that shouldn’t have been allowed. Goals like that are naturally frustrating. With a bit more luck, we could have scored one or two goals ourselves, but we were often a step too late or opened up too often, where we might have needed to finish earlier.”
Assistant coach Eta summarized the situation: “We had decided to play forward courageously when we had the ball and we demonstrated that during the course of the game. We kept creating chances, especially around the 60th minute, but unfortunately we weren’t able to convert them, so we have to work on that.”
While Berlin’s ten shots on goal were all too harmless, Eta praised Yorbe Vertessen’s performance. “He has a lot of determination towards the goal. From my perspective, he did very well,” she said about the winter signing.