Wary Union Berlin hoping to take advantage of wounded Bayern

(AP) — Bayern Munich is smarting after its biggest loss in 43 years, and Union Berlin will be cautiously hoping to take advantage of the situation.

Bayern was routed 5-0 at Borussia Mönchengladbach in the second round of the German Cup on Wednesday, its biggest defeat since a 7-1 loss to Fortuna Düsseldorf in the Bundesliga in December 1978.

It could have been worse, too, with Gladbach missing several chances to score more.

“You can’t just shake off the game,” Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann said Friday, a day before his team faces Union Berlin in the Bundesliga. “We’ve shown that we’re people and not machines.”

Nagelsmann has had to watch Bayern’s last three matches from self-isolation because of his coronavirus infection, though he has been able to conduct team talks and communicate with stand-in coach Dino Toppmöller during games.

Bayern sports director Hasan Salihamidžić said Nagelsmann’s absence had no bearing on the team’s performance in Mönchengladbach. He also said the off-field issues with players Lucas Hernández and Joshua Kimmich had no impact.

Hernández found out Wednesday that he would not face prison for violating a restraining order in Spain, and Kimmich caused an uproar over the weekend by voicing his concerns about getting a vaccine against the coronavirus.

Nagelsmann won’t be at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei on Saturday for the match against Union. He expects to return for the Champions League game against Benfica on Tuesday.

Union is again overachieving this season, its third in the Bundesliga since being promoted in 2019.

The team is in fifth place with only one loss from nine games. Union beat Gladbach 2-1 this season and boasts a 21-game unbeaten at home in the Bundesliga.

The Berlin team will also have its biggest crowd since the pandemic began with local authorities allowing about 16,500 spectators despite a rising infection rate in the German capital. It will be the first time Union fans are permitted in the stadium for Bayern’s visit in the league.

Bayern’s first visit was called off as the pandemic took hold in Germany in March 2020, and there were no fans permitted when the game was eventually played in May (Bayern won 2-0), nor for Bayern’s visit last season (1-1).

Union would be fourth this season if it hadn’t conceded an injury-time equalizer in Stuttgart last weekend.

“Stuttgart can count themselves lucky,” Union defender Timo Baumgartl said of the 1-1 draw. “It’s bitter. It feels like a defeat for us.”

The fact the late goal rankled so much shows how far the team has come under the astute leadership of Swiss coach Urs Fischer.

Fischer has coaxed Nigeria striker Taiwo Awoniyi into the form of his life with seven goals already in the league this season. The 24-year-old Awoniyi said Fischer was “like a father” to him.

Union will be without former Germany forward Max Kruse, who broke off training on Friday and was on his way to the Berliner Charité hospital for treatment.

“I can’t say much more about it,” Fischer said of the injury.

The Union coach said Bayern’s big loss in Gladbach would not make his team’s task any harder.

“The job is tough enough. Whether they’re particularly fired up, it doesn’t change a thing,” said Fischer, whose team was the only one Bayern did not beat in the Bundesliga last season.

Bayern forward Thomas Müller expects his team to show some improvement.

“We’ll see in the next weeks how we react to such a game,” Müller said. “We’re used to showing a reaction after negative experiences. But that’s easy to say.”