Robin Gosens (l.) and Union Berlin will grapple with Real Madrid once more on Tuesday. - © IMAGO/Ruben Albarran/Shutterstock
Robin Gosens (l.) and Union Berlin will grapple with Real Madrid once more on Tuesday. - © IMAGO/Ruben Albarran/Shutterstock

5 reasons Union Berlin will beat Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League


Union Berlin's maiden UEFA Champions League participation comes to an end on Tuesday with an enticing Matchday 6 clash against continental giants Real Madrid to conclude their Group C campaign.

>> Click here for Union vs. Real team news and LIVE blog! offers five reasons why Union can upset the odds and pick up three big points that could secure them a place in the UEFA Europa League play-offs.

1) New manager, new ideas

Sadly, Union’s 4-0 defeat by Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 11 marked the end of Urs Fischer’s hugely successful five-year stint at the helm. The Swiss tactician took Die Eisernen from mid-table second-tier mediocrity to Europe’s premier club competition in half a decade, and he remains a fan favourite in the red side of Berlin despite the 14-game winless run which concluded his reign. His dismissal, however, has given new head coach Nenad Bjelica the opportunity to manage in the Champions League once more as he tries to secure a famous result against the 14-time European champions.

Watch: The best of Urs Fischer at Union Berlin

Read here about the top 5 wins by Bundesliga clubs against Real Madrid

The Croatian took charge of Union’s trip to Braga and secured only the club’s second ever point in this competition. Of course, Real Madrid are a different proposition, but Bjelica does have previous experience at this level, having managed former participants Austria Vienna and Dinamo Zagreb. Despite being in charge of relative minnows, he led Vienna to a 4-1 victory over Zenit St. Petersburg in 2013 and masterminded Zagreb’s 4-0 hammering of Atalanta, who went on to reach the quarter-finals, six years later. His thus far short tenure in the German capital also means Real will not know what to expect when they travel to the Olympiastadion, allowing Bjelica to spring a surprise or two.

2) Gosens to take centre stage

Summer arrival Robin Gosens has proved to be an incredibly shrewd acquisition. The left wing-back already has a distinguished career under his belt, and has proven his pedigree at his new club too. His five strikes in all competitions, including his brace in the early-campaign 4-1 triumph over Darmstadt and the opener in the draw with Braga, makes him the club’s top goalscorer this term, and his energy and endeavour down his flank have seen him involved in most of Union’s attacking threat throughout the season.

Watch: Union and Gosens - a winning combination

Leonardo Bonucci is the only teammate of Gosens to have featured more frequently in the competition in past editions, and the 29-year-old Germany international was whiskers away from picking up a winners’ medal last term as his Inter Milan side were narrowly defeated by Manchester City in the final. The former Atalanta ace will not be able to defeat the might of Madrid on his own, but if Union are to prevail against the odds, he is likely to play a key role.

3) State of play

Facing the group’s best team on the final matchday could well play into Union’s hands. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have so far dispatched all before them this season, winning all five group matches while scoring 13 goals and conceding just five. With ex-Borussia Dortmund star Jude Bellingham becoming an instant hit and Vinícius Junior and Rodrygo shining as they so often have done in recent years, the La Liga outfit are, on paper, huge favourites to win again.

Watch: The best of Bellingham in the Bundesliga

However, not only have Real Madrid already secured their place in the knockout stages, but they are also certain to finish in top spot. As such, this clash is a perfect opportunity to rest some vital players, especially considering the fixture falls in the middle of four games in 12 days. The XI that is ultimately selected to take the field may also lack their usual edge with nothing on the line, which is in stark contrast to Union, who need a win to keep their hopes of snatching a Europa League play-off spot alive. The schedule has thrown Bjelica and Co. a lifeline, and it is one they will no doubt be eager to take.

4) Competition shocks

Let's face it, the Champions League has been littered with surprising results down the years this season has been no different. From Brondby's 2-1 win against Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich back in 1998/99 to FC Copenhagen’s 4-3 triumph over Manchester United earlier this campaign, the list of so-called smaller teams taking big-named scalps is a long one. Sure, Real are the record European Cup champions, while this season represents their 27th consecutive appearance in the group stages, but does that not make Union the slipperiest of possible banana skins for Ancelotti's side? 

Watch: Ultra-efficient Union Berlin

Few would have expected 2022/23's defending European champions to lose out at RB Leipzig last season, and Schalke's 4-3 win against the Spanish giants in the 2014/15 round of 16, second leg is still reminisced over in the pubs of Gelsenkirchen. Considering how Union have continually upset the status quo domestically in recent seasons, you wouldn’t bet against them doing so in continental competition either.

5) Union on the up

To say this has been a difficult season for Union would be an understatement. After three victories in their opening three matches in all competitions, they lost their next 12 as they sank to the bottom of the Bundesliga table, a position they had not occupied since the first few weeks following their promotion in 2019. Fischer was an unfortunate casualty of that streak but, at least in Europe, things were not as bad as the results suggested. Only a last-gasp Bellingham winner denied Union a maiden Champions League point on Matchday 1, while they were again defeated in the final seconds of stoppage time by Braga after moving into a 2-0 lead. The point they earned against Napoli was the least they deserved.

Kevin Volland scored from the spot as Union earned victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday. - Reinaldo Coddou H.

Over the last five games, there has been a clear improvement in form. Bjelica’s men have lost just one of those encounters – the clash against Leverkusen – as they also drew 1-1 at Braga and at home versus Augsburg. Finally, after 15 matches and close to three months, they were victorious once more at the weekend, defeating Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 with a resurgent showing in front of a raucous home crowd at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.

Of course, the Olympiastadion does not have the same intimate feel as Union's home ground in Köpenick, but the vast majority of the 74,000+ in attendance will be cheering them on and, considering their form and results in recent weeks, both the supporters and the players will be confident they can spring an almighty surprise.