On the first group stage matchday of the 2022/23 UEFA Europa League season, 1. FC Union Berlin will welcome Belgian runners-up Royale Union Saint-Gilloise to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei on Thursday, 08.09.2022. Kick-off is at 18:45.
Union president Dirk Zingler attaches special importance to the first Europa League match in the stadium’s more than hundred year long history: “It really is a historic day for those of us who have been coming here, to this stadium, for many decades. We have been playing football here since 1920. We have existed throughout different times, through different states, a divided city and different systems. We had difficulties in the 1990s; we had difficulties in the early 2000s and now, today, we are playing internationally, in the Europa League, in a stadium that belongs to us. This means an enormous amount to the people here.”
With the Jupiler Pro League being one of the most complicated leagues in Europe, it is worth taking a look at how it works. First, the season starts with a preliminary and second round. Then the various play-offs start. The Belgian championship is fought over in Play-Off I, in which the six best teams compete with half the number of points from the regular season.
In addition to Play-Off I, there is also another play-off round and a relegation round. For example, the fourth placed team in Play-Off I plays against those in first place in Play-Off II for the final Europa League place. This system is designed to keep the league’s outcome exciting until the very last matchday, and it means even the team that finishes 14th place in the regular season has a chance to reach theEuropean competition through Play-Off II.
St. Gilloise were the strongest away team in the league last season. This year, as it stands, they are in fifth. Last year’s runners-up have so far won four, lost one, and had two draws.
In the summer, the Belgians strengthened their attack by signing the dangerous 21 year old Victor Boniface from the Norwegian club FK Bodo/Glimt. He’s already made his presense felt, scoring the opener after only two minutes in the Brussels derby, a 2-1 win against Anderlecht. It was his first goal in the St. Gilloise jersey.
Union head coach Urs Fischer will have to do without the injured centre-forward Jordan Siebatcheu and centre-back Diogo Leite. Otherwise, he has the entire Europa League squad from the group phase at his disposal.
The coaches and the captains’ views on the game.
Urs Fischer noted the similarities between the two Unions, besides their names: “We are very much looking forward to the Europa League, and we will be facing a team of great quality tomorrow. St. Gilloise have a similar style of play [to us]. For example when working without the ball, but also the was they play long balls over the lines.”
Captain Christopher Trimmel is euphoric ahead of the EL opener, but warned against recklessness: “We are very much looking forward to it, and then to play at our home, the Alte Försterei. It will be emotional but also an intense game, we must not underestimate our opponent tomorrow. Our coach already said it, it’s a tough group we’re in.”
St. Gilloise’s head coach Karel Geraerts is aware of the power of the Alte Försterei: “We are playing against a very good team that plays modern football at the highest level. Against a backdrop of Union’s own stadium is a historic moment for the whole club, which will give the team extra motivation for tomorrow.”
Matchday info: All in Red.
For 1. FC Union Berlin’s first home Europa League match in their history, the entire stadium is to be developed into a vision in red and so the motto for all Eisern is “Alle in Rot”. So make sure you wear red, too. There will be a specially printed T-shirt made in collaboration between Szene Köpenick and Union available on site. You can find all the information here.
The match will be broadcast live on the streaming service RTL+. As usual, Union will also provide information about the match on its own live ticker in German, and updates in English will be on our Twitter feed.