Barely nine weeks after 1. FC Union Berlin's last Bundesliga match in Freiburg, the club from Köpenick will get underway once again. Tomorrow, Union welcome 29-time German champions Bayern Munich to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
The visit of the Bavarians would have been a sold-out festival of football in our first Bundesliga campaign, but there will be stringent restrictions in place in accordance with the DFL's hygiene strategy – just 300 people in total will be in attendance.
"For all those who are present, there is a strict code of conduct and very specific conditions for their work. There will be no flags on the fences or stadium announcements. Not having to play in the stadium without spectators is a very extraordinary and also painful situation for us. We will not use any technical means to suggest a normality which doesn't exist," said Christian Arbeit, Director for Media and Communications at 1. FC Union Berlin. "We thank you for your understanding and support from all over. We are in good contact with our fans and don't expect crowds to gather in front of the ground. The area is closed off already for a while anyway, so this won't be possible."
Union without head coach Fischer
Preparations at the training camp in Barsinghausen, near Hannover, went on as normal ahead of the first Bundesliga match in nine weeks. However, Markus Hoffmann and Sebastian Bönig have this week taken control as Urs Fischer left for Switzerland for personal reasons. A bereavement in the family means he will not be taking charge of the first-team.
"At the moment, football is certainly not a priority for Urs, that's understandable. But we are in daily exchanges and have a video session with the entire staff every evening," explained assistant coach Markus Hoffmann at the pre-match press conference on Saturday. However, during the 90 minutes, there will be no contact.
"I don't think the surrounding conditions will impact Bayern much," Hoffmann added. "This team is incredibly experienced, so we don't need to discuss the quality of the team. They are a very good team and that's hardly surprising. We have to concentrate on our own performance and not worry about our opponents. We're going to put everything we've got into it to make the best game possible."
Marvin Friedrich, a stalwart in central defence, is missing through suspension. Hoffmann confirmed he would pick the final matchday squad tomorrow when all tests for COVID-19 were provided.
A number of rule changes are in place this weekend for substitutes. There will be no normal bench with all subs taking a place in the main stand to maintain the necessary social distancing. The German FA have increased the number of substitutions available from three to five. More players as a result will be available and this is to minimise risk of injury.
While the coaching staff have dealt with unique circumstances and conditions, Hoffmann is simply looking forward to getting back to business. "Football is based off rules. In this scenario, there's just a few more. Now it's time to deal with them. We've decided that we want to play, so now we've got to focus on our own strengths and deal with the situation as best as we can."