1. FC Union Berlin were heavily reliant on home form last term. They had a tumultuous start, with heavy a heavy 4-0 defeat to eventual champions Greuther Fürth and an away thumping by rivals Dynamo Dresden. However, they recovered well and at the mid-way stage occupied 7th place, although were already 8 points adrift of the solitary play-off spot. Worryingly Union’s form dipped in the second half of the season. They won only 6 from 17 yet still managed a very respectable 7th spot based on their early season promise. Silvio was Union’s top score with 8 goals in 2011/12 and it is this lack of fire-power that most concerns me. Coupled with a stand being redeveloped and the ground feeling somewhat peculiar, Union will do well to emulate last terms finishing position.
2. St Pauli must be fancied to make a return to the top flight after narrowly missing out on a play-off spot on goal difference last season. They were quick out of the blocks and notched 6 wins in 8 in early 2011. However, as the season wore on, St.Pauli flagged and after being 2nd with 12 games to go finished 4th level on points with Fortuna Dusseldorf.
3. Last time Hertha were relegated they engineered a quick return to the Bundesliga 1 despite a 2-1 reverse at home to Union. This is the fixture that Union fans were looking out for and as luck would have it, I’ll be on a Lufthansa flight back from a wedding in the UK when this game takes place, on Monday 3rd September at 20:15. Hugely disappointing. The return leg in west Berlin is in March.
4. Dynamo Dresden and Energie Cottbus are both close to Union (in German terms) and as such can be counted on to be lively affairs – if not on the pitch then certainly on the terraces. If you believed the authorities and the media these are games to be avoided but I travelled safely to Cottbus last term and found both sets of supporters’ behaviour impeccable. Energie visit Union on Saturday 29th September at 13:00 whilst Dresden do not visit until April next year. Union scored 5 goals, took maximum points and did not concede against these two sides last season at home. More of the same please in the two home games this term.
5. St Pauli did the double over Union last time out with the game in Hamburg being most notable for an incident that will warm the cockles of those who enjoy seeing the game being played in the right spirit. The game was poised at 1.1 when a St Pauli player accidentally handled the ball in to the net after a failed attempt at a diving header. He admitted the infringement although it had been missed by the officials. St Pauli went on to win the game notching late on.