Union Berlin 2021/22 season preview: Can Die Eisernen thrive in Europe whilst tackling the league?

Dubbed as Europe's football hipsters, Union Berlin quite remarkably reach the qualification stages of the newly founded UEFA Europa Conference League following their seventh place finish last season. 

The East German outfits form in their previous campaign was often mixed, recording the most draws in the division with a total of 14, whilst winning on 12 occasions. 

Despite their relatively average form, the Iron Union will play either be Astana or KUPS in their final round of qualification. 

  • Pre-season recap 

Shortly after the curtains slammed shut at the EUROs, preparations were well underway in Kopennick. 

The month of July saw Fischer's side play five times, in which they won four and drew one, with that tie coming against Dynamo Kyiv, the Ukrainian side reached the round of 16 in the Europa League this year. However, Union were able to beat OGC Nice and Athletic Bilbao comfortably. 

Bundesliga veteran Max Kruse returned to training for the 4th of August following Germany's elimination from the Olympics. The 33 year-old was a key man for Union last season, scoring 11 goals in just 22 appearances whilst also recording five assists.

Numerous sides across the division have enjoyed a strong pre-season. However, this campaign will become a part of Der Rot und Weisse's history.  

  • Transfer business

With Union ending the season on a high note, it was important that additions were made to help the side compete within the Bundesliga as well as cup and European competitions.

14 additions have been made to Fischer's squad, further increasing their squad depth for the forthcoming season.

Returning to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei for Union is Liverpool's Taiwo Awoniyi, the Nigerian spent the previous campaign on loan however the club splashed out on their most expensive summer signing. Awoniyi scored five goals in 21 matches for the side last year. The 23-year-old faces a big season in Germany and Europe to prove he's worth the £5,500,000 price tag.

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The attacker has spent plenty of time on loan from Liverpool in his five years of being on the books at Anfield. However, Awoniyi never made the cut during his time at the Reds. Having spent time in Holland, Belgium and Germany, the 23-year-old finally has a permanent home in Koppenick. 

Big spending sprees have never been a regular occurrence and this summer emphasises that. With a net spend of -£10,260,000, Union have plenty to show for it.

Four defensive reinforcements were part of this summers transfer window, this includes the likes of Timo Baumgartl, Paul Jaeckel, Rick Van Drongelen and Tymoteusz Puchacz. All for a grand total of £3,650,000.

Additions were also made to Fischer's midfield and frontline, adding plenty of depth whilst creating the desire to fight for a spot in the starting XI.

Levin Öztunali, Rani Khedira, Julius Kade, Genki Haraguchi all bolster the midfield ranks at Stadion An der Alten Försterei .

Khedira joins Union on a free from Augsburg after spending three years in South Germany. The holding midfielder adds a wealth of experience to Fischer's side and with his style of keeping the ball on the ground and his aerial strength, this is quite the coup for Der Rot und Weisse.

As well as Awoniyi, Union made a number of acquisitions to their front line. Kevin Behrens, Andreas Voglsammer, Pawel Wszolek, Genki Haraguchi and Keita Endo have been brought in to provide depth for the hectic footballing calender this year. 

  • Key player

Despite being 33 year of age, Union's Kruse will be one to watch under Fischer this season. 

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Scoring 11 goals in 22 matches, the Bundesliga veteran will look to enjoy another campaign in the top flight as well as the inaugural Europa Conference League.  However, with the number of additions to Union's attacking threat, the aging German's game time may be slightly restricted. 

The ability to consistently find the back of the net has been a key plaudit to Kruse's game, Fischer can always count in his 33-year-old front man.

Kruse is an important figure in the changing room, with his influence going beyond the goal tally, his vast experience and knowledge of the leg will be an abundance of use to Union this year.

It's no doubt that off the pitch Fischer and the Union Berlin contingent will be grateful for the influence that Kruse will provide this season.

  • Key dates

Union Berlin officially start the 2021/22 Bundesliga campaign on home soil to Bayer Leverkusen on the 14th of August, a tough fixture for the Der Rot Und Weisse to start the season with.

Of course on the forefront of every supporters mind is derby day. Union host their cross-city rivals, Hertha Berlin, on the 20th of November at home. Then a trip to the Olympistadion follows on the 9th of Aprill in 2022.

On top of this, fixtures in the Europa Conference League are not too far in the distant future for Fischer's side. Union's European adventure begins on the 19th of August against Astana or KUPS.

  • Writers verdict

It's extremely difficult to predict how Union Berlin will fair this season both in the league and Europe.

With one of the best set of supporters in the division, the team will be well supported regardless of what happens this year. However, with added fixtures to the calendar, achieving a strong mid-table finish would be considered a good campaign.

Union certainly have what it takes to do better but with plenty of fresh faces added to the squad, it may take some going for the red and white's to gel.

However, with Union potentially going on a European tour, their fans are set for a rollercoaster of a season. The cool kids on the block will be a team that the Bundesliga will have to be wary of for the third consecutive season.