Union SG vs Leverkusen – Analysis, Prediction, Team News
Thursday 20th April 2023
Lotto Park (Anderlecht)
As part of our Europa League Predictions, we examine the second leg of Union SG’s tie with Bayer Leverkusen. The Belgians were able to hold on for a 1-1 draw in Germany – can they finish the job at home? Read on with our Union SG vs Bayer Leverkusen prediction.
Leverkusen (EL and CL)
Union SG vs Leverkusen Match Preview
While we successfully predicted that Union SG would certainly be competitive in their first-leg clash, we didn’t anticipate that they would be able to take a positive result back to Belgium. While it may be somewhat premature to suggest that Union SG are in the driver’s seat for this second-leg tie, Leverkusen find themselves with some work to do following a less than convincing display against last season’s Jupiler League runners-up.
Both teams deviated from their previous formations and lined up with four at the back as opposed to three central defenders and wing-back pairings. We expect that this was a tactical ploy on both sides to throw the other off-balance. Both Xabi Alonso and Karel Geraerts (one of Europe’s most coveted young managers) are proving to be highly adept tacticians – Alonso after something of a rocky start at the BayArena. 1-1 was a fair outcome on the balance of play, with neither side quite doing enough to secure the win.
Royale Union SG secured a 2-1 home victory at the weekend against rock-bottom Seraing to hold onto second place with one game of the main stage remaining before the top four teams separate off into the Championship group to determine the Jupiler League Champions. Geraerts men may have considered the game to be wrapped up at halftime at 2-0, only for their beleaguered opponents to rally, grab a goal back and control the second half. With Union SG chasing their maiden title, they made a few changes but not wholesale ones.
Although admittedly two draws in succession can hardly be considered to be a crisis or even a mini-crisis, especially considering Leverkusen’s disappointing campaign up until relatively recently, we can’t help but notice they’ve gone off the boil somewhat. In addition to their failure to defeat Union SG in the first leg in which they were firm favourites, Wolfsburg held Alonso’s men to draw in the Bundesliga on the weekend and once again, the final result was probably a fair one.
Injuries and Suspensions
Might Not Play:
Will Not Play:
Might Not Play:
Will Not Play: Lunev, Palacios, Schick
Union SG vs Leverkusen Lineups (Predicted)
Union SG (3-5-2): Moris; Van Der Heyden, Burgess, Kandouss; Nieuwkoop, Teuma, El Azzouzi, Lynen, Lapoussin; Adingra, Boniface
Leverkusen (3-4-1-2): Hradecky; Kossounou, Tapsoba, Tah; Hincapie, Andrich, Palacios, Frimpong; Wirtz; Diaby, Adli
Union SG vs Leverkusen Analysis
Job Done for Union SG – What Now?
Union SG undoubtedly achieved what they set out to do – hurt Leverkusen and then prioritise holding on for the result. That they did it quite so admirably, with more shots on target than their opponents and preventing their breakthrough until the 82nd minute was probably unexpected – there were those of us who felt that they could be competitive based on their performances in the group stages and in the last 16 against their group opponents Union Berlin – nevertheless, Leverkusen were in red-hot form coming into the match and they were largely successful in nullifying a dangerous team.
The difficulty for Union SG is choosing the path forward. Leverkusen have demonstrated an ability to carry over their attacking prowess into away matches – this isn’t a particularly common trait in football. In the last few months, they’ve remained as dangerous away from home as they are at the BayArena. Therefore, we expect Union SG to employ a similar tactic in their home game despite their home advantage. They can’t risk going a goal or two down against a Leverkusen side who are also dangerous on the counter-attack. We expect that they will start fast, attempt to grab an opening goal, gauge the strength of Leverkusen’s response and adjust accordingly.
Leverkusen Must Be Bold
Union SG have a tendency to play on the front foot unless forced not to. That may sound simplistic, but their round of 16 second-leg match against Union Berlin that got them to the quarter-finals is a prime example of this. They defeated a side who have been one of the Bundesliga’s better teams (and indeed, are in third place) 3-0, and Union Berlin had one shot on target as they neither controlled possession nor tried to present a potent threat on the counter. They were caught between two approaches – conceding possession and hitting on the break, and a more controlled approach, and in the end they did neither.
Leverkusen are at their best when they adopt a fluid vertical tiki-taka approach combined with fluid counterattacks when the opportunity (and space) is there. This may sound like Football Manager speak, but it makes them hard to prepare against because it makes them incredibly versatile. It has taken some time, but Leverkusen now look like one of Europe’s most promising teams. Yes, they still make defensive mistakes as you’d expect with a developing side, but it’s clear that Leverkusen are grateful that they persisted with Alonso.
If they find themselves caught in two minds as Union Berlin did, we wouldn’t put it past the Belgians to get their noses in front and continue to present a potent threat in transition. Leverkusen have demonstrated they have the quality to play quick, vertical football without resorting to hopeful punts and Hollywood balls, and they need to impose their quality here. Whether or not Leverkusen can execute is key to this match.
We expect another competitive game here. Union SG have proven, consistently, that they belong at this level and they’re unlikely to be dominated for 90 minutes by any Europa League team. They’re highly adept at maximising their goal threat from the possession they’re able to get, and once they’re in a favoured position they’re able to close a game out or at least gain a draw.
Leverkusen weren’t at their best in the first leg nor on the weekend away to Wolfsburg. However, it’s too early to declare that the wheels are falling off after a period of magnificent form in which they appear to have finally clicked. We’re backing them to come through – but only just.
Union SG 1-2 Leverkusen
Union SG vs Leverkusen Betting Tip – Leverkusen Odds:
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