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1. FC Köln Come to Köpenick

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On Saturday, 04 March 2023, third placed 1. FC Union Berlin will host 1. FC Köln, in twelfth, in their 23rd game of the current Bundesliga season. Kick off at the Alte Försterei is at 15:30.

The lie of the land

Saturday’s match is a duel between two teams whose seasons could hardly have been more different. While Union are still sat in third place in the Bundesliga, despite the 3-0 defeat in Munich last Sunday, Köln are as if caught in a netherworld in twelfth, unsure if they are facing up or down. One reason for this is their record away from home, with only eight points taken from 11 games on the road so far.

But their overall unsteady form is also a factor. Inconsistency is their consistency; they haven’t yet managed two victories in a row. And that despite the fact that they were still competing in the Europa Conference League during the first half of the season.

Köln, however, could certainly consider the start of the new year to have been a qualified success. A furious 7-1 win against Werder Bremen was followed by draws against Bayern and RB Leipzig. But even the decisive 3-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt did not bring about a lasting turnaround in their form. A goalless draw at Schalke was followed by defeat in Stuttgart and then at home against Wolfsburg.

The opponents

With 26 points and the aforementioned 12th place, the team from the cathedral city are dead in the middle of the table, albeit with a seven points fewer distance to the relegation places as to those which lead to European qualification. They are 12 points behind Frankfurt Eintracht, in 6th place.

Even though Steffen Baumgart’s team has a better goal difference than all the teams above them, with 32 scored and 36 goals conceded, they decided to make further additions in the winter transfer window with the likes of Davie Selke coming into their attack from Hertha BSC. Despite his appearances, however, the centre forward hasn’t yet scored for his new club.

Baumgart has now shown a willingness to deviate from the 4-2-3-1 system he had adhered to for much of the season, moving to a more traditional 4-4-2.

The reunion

Effzeh currently have three players with a Union past under contract, two of which are active on the field, the third, however, is stalking the touchline, Steffen Baumgart. Baumgart, who was born in Rostock, and has been head coach in Köln since the start of the 2021/22 season, played a total of 68 games, scoring 22 goals, for Union between 2002 and 2004.

Full-back Kristian Pedersen, an Unioner from 2016 to 2018, and striker Sebastian Andersson, a promotion hero and someone whose name will remain etched in Union’s history as their first ever Bundesliga goal scorer, are both currently absent through injury and are therefore not in Baumgart’s squad for the match.

The personnel

András Schäfer is still missing from Union’s squad, while Niko Gießelmann and Jérôme Roussillon are questionable ahead of the match.

The coaches’ views ahead of the game

“FC are a very active, strong running side. They are very variable in their play and create chances,” said Union head coach, Urs Fischer during his press conference on Friday. “They are also not afraid shooting from distance, where they’ll then go for the second ball. Köln are also very dangerous on the outside, putting in a lot of crosses, obviously because they have a strong presence in the penalty area. Overall, it will be a very interesting encounter and I also hope that my boys have cleared their heads a bit on the days off. That was very important to us.”

Baumgart, meanwhile, said he is looking forward to his return. “Of course the game at Union is special for me. I still have a flat in Köpenick. The atmosphere in the stadium An der Alten Försterei is indescribable. We have to show a good performance to take something home. They are an opponent who work aggressively against the ball. It will be an intense game. Everyone knows how difficult the task at Union will be.”

Service info: Restrictions on S-Bahn & road closures

The away section in the Stadion An der Alten Försterei is sold out. The stadium will open its gates at 13:30.

Due to expected traffic disruptions, all visitors are advised to allow extra time for their journey. Further information can be found (in German) here.

The match can be seen live on Sky and heard on rbb24 Inforadio and on www.rbb24.de. As usual, Union will also report on the match on the club’s own live ticker as well as in English on twitter.

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