On Wednesday, 20.09.2023, 1. FC Union Berlin will play a match in the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the club’s history, when they face Spanish record champions Real Madrid. Kick off at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is at 18:45.
35-time Spanish champions, 20-time cup winners and record Champions League winners - Real Madrid are a club defined only by superlatives. As early as the 1950s, Real were among the world's best and won the European Cup five times in a row between 1956 and 1960. President Santiago Bernabéu, who led Real between 1943 and 1978, is considered the father of this success, having been instrumental in professionalising the club, signing stars such as Alfredo Di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás, Raymond Kopa and Günther Netzer, as well as building a new stadium that bore his name from 1955 and still does to this day.
Bernabéu died in the summer of 1978. After a short lean period in the following years, "Los Blancos" celebrated great successes again from the mid-1980s onwards, winning the UEFA Cup in 1985 and 1986, and celebrating the Spanish title five times in a row. From 1990 onwards, however, Real temporarily lost their dominance of domestic football to FC Barcelona and did not win the Primera División title again for another five years.
At the turn of the millennium, the era of the "Galacticos" began. After the entrepreneur Florentino Pérez was elected president, he brought the stars of world football to the Spanish capital. One after the other, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham and Michael Owen signed up to play in the Spanish capital. It was Zidane who scored the winner with a sublime volley in Real's victory in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen. After his professional career, the Frenchman took over as coach in 2016, winning Europe’s premier club competition three times in a row with an all-star star ensemble, which included Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.
Toni Kroos, the brother of long-time Union player Felix, also played a significant role in these successes from midfield. The Greifswald born player still wears the Real jersey to this day.
Carlo Ancelotti has been coach at Madrid since 2021. In his first season, he won a double of the championship and the Champions League. The Italian would like to repeat this success before taking over the Brazilian national team in the summer of 2024. However, during the transfer period he had to cope with the departure of his best striker Karim Benzema, who moved to Saudi Arabia, in addition, both keeper Thibaut Courtois and defender Éder Militao are out with torn cruciate ligaments. Top striker Vinicius Junior is also injured. However, the performances of former Dortmund player Jude Bellingham, who has already scored five times this season and has thus played a major role in Real being top of the domestic league after five match days, give cause for hope.
Rani Khedira, Laurenz Dehl and Robin Knoche will not be available for selection on Wednesday due to injury. Janik Haberer is suspended due to his two yellow cards in Union’s last Europa league match against Royale Union Saint-Gilloise
The coaches’ views ahead of the match
"Real are a team with enormous individual quality, and their success in recent years speaks for itself,” said Fischer during his press conference on Wednesday afternoon in Madrid. “For us, it will be a matter of working well against the ball while remaining courageous going forwards. You also need possession against an opponent such as them. If you just it back, it will be difficult." He added, "This game is a reward for our great performances last season."
Real boss, Ancelotti, said shortly before, "We want to start well in the group stage, and tomorrow we have the chance to do so at home. We are playing against an opponent who are well organised, penetrative and solid. We will need an intense game. Union Berlin are a new club in the Champions League, but the fact that they are in it means they did a very good job last season. The luck we coaches have these days is that we can learn everything possible from the opponent. We have studied Union well."
3,840 Unioners will be in the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu to support their team, and there are no more away tickets tickets available. Important information about going to the stadium in Madrid can be found here. The match will be broadcast live on DAZN. As usual, Union will also provide updates on the match via the club's own live ticker, as well as in both English and Spanish on Twitter.