Christian Arbeit had to smile a little as he went through the planned processes. “We built the balcony especially for this purpose, so that it can also be used sometimes,” said Union’s stadium and press spokesman. On Saturday at 6.30 p.m., a good hour after the final whistle of the last game of the season, the 1. FC Union team will present themselves to the fans and celebrate qualifying for the European Cup together.
In contrast to last year, when the big party on the balcony and parking lot was rather spontaneous due to the dramatic season finale, the Berliners are now well prepared. After all, there must also be advantages if you reach your goals ahead of time.
With a home win against Bochum (kick-off 3.30 p.m., Sky), Union certainly qualifies for the group stage of the Europa League, with a draw or a defeat, 1. FC Köln could still overtake them. In this case, the Berliners would have to be content with the Conference League.
It would be a small drop of bitterness at the end of an outstanding season. “It’s crazy to improve again compared to last season,” said Urs Fischer. With 54 points, Union has already collected four more points than last season.
Union’s coach seemed calm as ever before the last important game and he didn’t notice any excessive nervousness in his team either. “The team is in focus, they are ready,” said Fischer. “The game against Fürth, where we were perhaps a bit inhibited, also helps us.”
Union cannot afford such a performance as in the first half against the relegated team and the warning is appropriate. Because even if the reasons are completely different, Bochum can go into the game just like Fürth two weeks before without any pressure.
That cannot be said of the Berliners, but Fischer sees this as more of a motivation than an obstacle. Of course, the team knows that there is a lot at stake, but “that’s a positive pressure because you can win something,” said the Swiss. The Europa League would be an even bigger success for the club than qualifying for the Conference League last season, and not just from a financial point of view.
Fischer’s work would also make it easier if Union could save the two play-off games in August and go straight into the group stage in September. Especially since the visibility compared to the Conference League is significantly higher for a small club like Union. “We already had a very attractive group with Rotterdam and Prague, but the Europa League is one step higher,” said Fischer.
The coach will have to do without the injured goalkeeper Frederik Rönnow and defender Timo Baumgartl (surgical removal of a testicular tumor) against Bochum. It is questionable whether defender Dominique Heintz will be fit in time. “That would be important for us because we are thinly manned in central defence,” said Fischer, who recently had to order Julian Ryerson into the back three.
Big changes are not to be expected after the strong performance in Freiburg a week ago – neither in terms of personnel nor otherwise. “We’ll approach the game the way we always approach it,” said Fischer. During the 90 minutes, the coach will be informed about the interim result of pursuers Cologne.
Since the Berliners have everything in their own hands, they don’t even want to get involved in tactics. “We want to win,” said Fischer.