Union Berlin scrap to avoid sinking feeling to their fairytale

Kevin Vogt (L) of Union Berlin in action against Karim Adeyemi of Dortmund. File photo

Just months after hosting European royalty Real Madrid in the Champions League, Union Berlin face lowly Bochum on Sunday in a survival showdown.

With Darmstadt relegated last week and second-last Cologne edging closer to the drop, Union are one of a trio of teams scrapping to avoid finishing in the relegation playoff place and a potential drop to the second division.

Union’s fall has been even more rapid than their rise to title contenders and Champions League qualifiers last year.

After playing in the lower leagues since the reunification of Germany football in 1991, Union were promoted to the top division in 2019 for the first time.

Expected to drop immediately back, especially as the pandemic robbed them of their passionate home support, Union went from strength to strength.

Having taken Union to 11th, seventh and fifth in their first three seasons in the top grade, no nonsense manager Urs Fischer had Union in the top-four for most of last season, including a seven-week stint atop the table.

A fourth-placed finish qualified Union for the Champions League, where they were drawn to face Real, Italian champions Napoli and Portuguese upstarts Braga.

Union opened the season with two big wins and sat atop the Bundesliga again, but from there everything began to unravel.

Union lost to RB Leipzig, their first home loss in 18 months, which started a run of nine straight league defeats.

That skid ended the reign of beloved coach Fischer, his departure unthinkable even just a few weeks earlier.

New manager Nenad Bjelica initially righted the ship, with Union winning their next four league games to seemingly climb out of danger.

A poor recent run however, with just one win in nine, has dropped Union level with Sunday’s opponents Bochum, just two points clear of Mainz in the play-off spot.

A win would give Union, who face struggling Cologne the following week, a cushion with two matches remaining.

The latest slide may have cost Bjelica his job, with Kicker reporting the club will let the coach go in summer, although his agent said on Wednesday that “Nenad is fully focused on Union and is putting all his strength into staying in the league.”

At the other end of the table, champions Bayer Leverkusen travel to Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday.

Xabi Alonso’s side must survive three league matches to become the first team to go an entire Bundesliga season without losing.

Bayern and Dortmund’s performances in their Champions League semi-finals this week netted Germany a fifth spot in the competition next season which meant they, as well as Leverkusen, Stuttgart and RB Leipzig have all already secured a spot in next year’s competition.

Germany could even get a sixth place in the Champions League.

If Dortmund, who lead Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in their semi-final, finish fifth in the Bundesliga and win the European final they would qualify as holders and the bonus spot would pass to the sixth-place Bundesliga finisher. Bayern cannot drop to fifth.

One to watch: Karim Adeyemi (Borussia Dortmund)

Often criticised as inconsistent, Karim Adeyemi showed how important he can be for Dortmund when he matches his skills and speed with determination in Wednesday’s Champions League win over PSG.

“That’s exactly what we need from him. He turned his potential into real quality,” Dortmund coach Edin Terzic said.

“There are hardly any people on the planet who can run faster than him. He can be an incredibly important factor for us.”

Key stats

3 – Union have scored just three goals in their past eight matches.

0 – No team has ever gone through a Bundesliga season unbeaten. Leverkusen are three games away.

1 – Stuttgart have won just one of their past 26 games against Bayern, losing 23 and drawing two.

Fixtures (1330 GMT unless stated)


Hoffenheim v RB Leipzig (1830)


Stuttgart v Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen v Borussia Moenchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund v Augsburg, Wolfsburg v Darmstadt, Cologne v Freiburg (1630)


Union Berlin v Bochum, Eintracht Frankfurt v Bayer Leverkusen (1530), Heidenheim v Mainz (1730)

Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –
Subscribe Now!

Latest News