It's an Union Reunion at the Alte Försterei
Saint Gilles Return in the Last 16
1. FC Union Berlin will host the remaining Belgian representatives Royale Union Saint-Gilloise on Thursday, 09.03.2023 in the first leg of the last-16 tie in the UEFA Europa League. Kick off is at 18:45.
The lie of the land
In the group stage, the club from the Brussels suburbs topped group D ahead of Union, SC Braga and Malmö FF. They remain the only team to have won in Köpenick this season when, in the first match of not only this European campaign, but also the first Europa League fixture in the hundred-plus year history of the Alte Försterei, Senne Lynen scored the single goal before half-time to win the match.
They finished the group stage with 13 points, with it qualifying directly for the last 16.
With only one point less, Urs Fischer's team had to go through an extra round in the final round of play-offs in February, where they defeated the Dutch record champions Ajax Amsterdam 3-1 over two legs, securing their own position in the knock-out rounds.
After 28 games played so far in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League, Karel Geraerts' team are currently sitting in 2nd place, eight points behind leaders KRC Genk. Regardless of this, the reigning runners-up are almost certain to qualify for the championship play-offs with six games still to go, with a buffer of 13 points.
The Belgians are certainly enjoying a strong season when looking at the plain numbers. They have the second best attack in the league having scored 57 goals, and the fourth-best defence with 34 conceded.
Up top, especially, their goal-scoring burden has been spread over many shoulders. Five players are in double figures so far this season (including Dante Vanzeir, who left for New York in the winter), a number which widens to eight if you take goals and assists together.
St. Gilles have, however, lost three of their last five matches. Two league defeats were followed by a penalty shoot-out cup loss against Royal Antwerp a week ago. They returned to winning ways last Sunday, beating KAS Eupen 2-1.
Apart from Andras Schäfer and Jerome Rousillon, Union's full squad is available for selection.
The coach and players’ views ahead of the match
"This is an opponent we know already. So we also know that it will be a difficult task. In the group game here at the Alte Försterei, they were very defensive and hardly allowed us any chances,” said Union’s head coach, Urs Fischer, in his press conference ahead of Thursday’s game.
“Overall, they are a very compact and well-organised team, and they play a style that is very similar to ours. We want to give everything in the 90 minutes as always, get a positive result and thus a good starting position for the second leg."
He was joined by midfielder, Morten Thorsby, who also also expects a difficult game. "We know what to expect, that's clear. Now we have to learn from the last games and do better. Nevertheless, we expect a difficult game of course, they are in good form in the Belgian league and are having a good season. Ito be in the last 16 of a European competition is something new for most of the players, so we want to give everything all the more."
No more tickets are available in the home section for the match. The stadium An der Alten Försterei will open its gates at 16:45, the usual two hours before kick-off. Due to the continued disruptions around Köpenick S-Bahn station and Hämmerlingstraße, fans and spectators are asked to allow extra time to get to the stadium.
The match will be broadcast live on the streaming service RTL+ and can be heard on rbb24 Inforadio and on www.rbb24.de. As usual, Union will also provide information on the match on the club's own live ticker, as well as in English on twitter.