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Union Berlin title triumph would the Bundesliga’s Leicester City fairytale

Bundesliga fans are used to seeing only one name at the top of the German top flight table, and it’s not Union Berlin. Bayern Munich are the division’s dominant force, winning the last 10 Bundesliga titles in-a-row, but the Bavarians’ stuttering early-season form has opened the door for an unlikely challenger.

 

Union Berlin could hardly be any more different to Bayern Munich in terms of their identity. While the German champions revel in their standing in as the country’s most successful and glamorous club, spending the most and signing the best players, Union Berlin have placed their own fans at the centre of the club.

 

Stadion An der Alten Forsterei, as the name (which translates to “Stadium at the old forester’s house”) suggests, is surrounded by trees and is a modest venue when compared to some of Germany’s biggest stadiums, like the Allianz Arena. It was, however, built by over 2,000 fans who volunteered to develop the stadium nearly 15 years ago. This reflects the link between Union Berlin and their own supporters. The two cannot be separated. They are one.

 

The team on the pitch plays with the intensity and energy that the fans in the stands demand. This has been evident in the performances produced by Union Berlin over the opening seven fixtures of the season with victories over RB Leipzig and Wolfsburg, as well as a draw against Bayern Munich, underlining the quality of Urs Fischer’s team.

 

There is, of course, a long way to go before Union Berlin can realistically target the Bundesliga title. Bayern Munich are too strong to struggle for much longer. Borussia Dortmund have also started the season well even if their form has been somewhat inconsistent. Union Berlin will most likely be squeezed out over the course of the full campaign.

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And yet Union Berlin’s rise hasn’t happened overnight. 2019 saw the club promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history and they followed this up by finishing 11th in their maiden top flight campaign and seventh the season afterwards. Union Berlin have built season-on-season for the last few years.

 

Taiwo Awoniyi finished last season as Union Berlin’s top scorer with 15 goals in just 31 Bundesliga appearances. Max Kruse also impressed as Fischer’s side qualified for European competition. Both players left the club over the summer, but Union Berlin reinvested smartly and might even be stronger than they were before the transfer window.

 

Jordan Pefok was signed from Young Boys in Switzerland and has started life in the Bundesliga with a combined five goals and assists in just six appearances. The American international has forged a partnership with Sheraldo Becker who gives Union Berlin dynamism in the attacking third of the pitch. The pair bring the best out of one another.

 

Fischer has built a strong foundation that should give Union Berlin a genuine chance of finishing in the Bundesliga’s top four this season with Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig already a long way adrift of Champions League qualification. Union Berlin are already in the Europa Conference League this season and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that could make another step, or two, up.

 

The sight of Union Berlin top of the Bundesliga table has many dreaming of an even greater fairytale, though. A Union Berlin title triumph would be German football’s very own Leicester City story. It would be one of the biggest upsets ever pulled off at the top level of the European game and the more matches Union Berlin play, the more the sense it could actually happen grows.

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