May 25th, 2024

Relegation-haunted Union Berlin pulls plug on Nenad Bjelica and brings back Marco Grote as coach

By The Associated Press on May 6, 2024.

BERLIN (AP) – Union Berlin has fired Nenad Bjelica as coach and appointed Marco Grote in his place in a bid to save the team from Bundesliga relegation.

Bjelica and his assistants were told Monday morning they had to go, Union said in a statement.

Grote becomes interim coach for the second time this season after taking over from longtime favorite Urs Fischer, who was fired in November after a 14-game run with a win.

The 51-year-old Grote will again be assisted by Marie-Louise Eta and Sebastian Bönig to prepare the team for its final games of the season. Eta had stayed on as assistant coach under Bjelica, while Grote had gone back to Union’s under-19s.

Union travels to Cologne on Saturday, a must-win game for the hosts to avoid being the second team relegated after last-place Darmstadt. Union then hosts Freiburg on the final day.

Bjelica’s last game in charge was a 4-3 loss at home to relegation-rival Bochum on Sunday, when his team conceded three goals in the first half. It was Union’s sixth consecutive game without a win and left the club just a point above the drop zone.

With two rounds remaining, Union has 30 points, one ahead of Mainz in the relegation playoff spot, and six ahead of Cologne, which needs to win its last two games to have any hope of escaping the drop.

The bottom two are automatically relegated, while the team that finishes third from bottom faces a two-legged playoff against the third-place finisher in the second division to determine which side plays in the Bundesliga next season.

Union was only promoted to Germany’s top division for the first time in 2019. This is the first season since then that it has had to seriously worry about relegation.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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