Braga match only a test run for Union Berlin's new head coach Bjelica

Berlin, Nov 280 (IANS) Weather conditions in the German November rarely correspond with outside events. A flush of raindrops and a grey cloudy Berlin sky welcomed Union’s new head coach Nenad Bjelica for his first training session.

The 52-year-old didn’t pay much attention to the unpleasant conditions but seemed entirely lost in thought as the schedule for his side couldn’t be more challenging, reports Xinhua.

Not only must the former Croatian international prepare his new squad for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League encounter against Braga at high speed, but crucial encounters against Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are to follow over the upcoming days.

Having to carry the load along with stepping into the footsteps of the legendary Urs Fischer might increase the challenge. The Swiss made Union shine over the past five years, taking them from the second division into the Champions League.

After Fischer’s resignation due to poor results, the signing of the former Kaiserslautern midfielder comes as a surprise. Union’s new arrival is seen as a newcomer in German football, despite having taken Austria Vienna and Dinamo Zagreb into the Champions League.

“It might not be the easiest challenge to follow after him,” Bjelica stated. “But my job is to get the team out of its low point and not talk about the past.”

While fans dreamed about former Spain star Raul as the new coach, fuelled by speculative media reports, Union officials such as club president Dirk Zinger and sporting director Oliver Ruhnert went for an experienced coach to fight the crisis.

Known as a coach who counts on strict discipline and sound internal structures, made him outpace competitors.

“I am the players’ friend off the pitch as long as they pay me back in our games,” the new arrival stated, while the club praised his experience in countries such as Poland, Italy and Türkiye.

Reports speak of the Union coach speaking German, English, Italian, Spanish, Polish and French in addition to his mother tongue of Croatian.

Bjelica mentioned getting everyone’s feet behind the line and “getting the team to play active football and take responsibility” as his two most pressing tasks.

Despite the calendar providing a series of tough duels against better-performing sides, Bjelica and Union desperately need satisfying results.

As if optimism is the starting point, Bjelica spoke of a well-equipped team having lost faith after 15 games without a victory.

While the Champions League seems now to be of secondary importance, gaining ground in the Bundesliga has become vital to maintain the club’s place in the division.

While Union only have a slim chance to finish third in their Champions League group and transfer to the Europa League, Bjelica can count on in-depth knowledge of the Bundesliga, having played 65 times for Kaiserslautern from 2001 to 2004.

Bjelica’s first match against Braga might only be a test run for the league games ahead. Union’s new man in charge seems aware that when crunch time approaches, bad weather can’t be an excuse.


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