Lesser-fancied European Teams to watch this season #7 - Union Berlin
The Bundesliga season is just under two weeks away and one team you should follow this season, in their debut season in the German top division nonetheless is 1.FC Union Berlin.
Die Eisernen made history last season by achieving their first-ever promotion to the Bundesliga after 10 years in Bundesliga 2. They finished 3rd in Bundesliga 2 and therefore were in the playoff game. They faced Bundesliga stalwarts in VfB Stuttgart and won the tie on away goals after a 2-2 in Stuttgart and then a 0-0 draw at home at Stadion An der Alten Försterei, to secure history.
Union Berlin had the best defence in the Bundesliga 2 last season only conceding 33 goals in 34 games not including the play-off which is impressive. However, the top division is a step-up so they need to be a defensively stable as well as score more than just the 54 goals they scored last season.
However, the team from Berlin have made some very shrewd transfer business during the summer window so far. As it is their first-ever season in the Bundesliga, they opted to get experienced Bundesliga players to help them survive the big time. They have spent nearly £4 million on the centre-back Marvin Friedrich from Augsburg and Nigerian striker Anthony Ujah from Mainz. On the other hand, it is their free signings which have gathered more attention.
Former Bundesliga winner Neven Subotic stands out as a very good deal at the age of 30 and with a wealth of experience can further bolster their backline for the big games. They've stengthened their midfield with the signings of Christian Gentner and Julius Kade from Stuttgart, Hannover, and Hertha Berlin respectively.
This season is the first time in 43 years, that there will be two teams from the German capital in the German First Division which also means a Berlin Derby. The two matches, the first at the home of Union and then the second at the home of Hertha, the Olympiastadion should be a wonderful spectacle, where the red and yellow of Union take on the blue and white of Hertha.
Union Berlin played a 4-3-3 system under manager Urs Fischer last season and is most likely going to continue with the system going forward especially with the balanced all-rounder in Gentner now in the team.
The big question is now for Union - can they survive their first season in the promise land of the German Bundesliga? Can they make themselves into the core teams of the Bundesliga like teams such as Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen or even their city rivals Hertha? Or will it be a case such as Greuther Fürth in 2012-13 who went straight back down after promotion and not come back to the Bundesliga since? For the city of Berlin and for the fans of die Eisernen I would hope the first option becomes a reality.