football | Bundesliga: Union Berlin against VfB Stuttgart: An incredible development since 2019

Status: 03/28/2023 12:03 p.m

On Saturday (3:30 p.m.) there will be a duel between Union Berlin and VfB Stuttgart. This brings back memories of the 2019 relegation matches. Both clubs then developed very differently.

It was May 27, 2019, the relegation second leg between Union Berlin and VfB Stuttgart. In the first leg, the Swabians had only played 2-2 despite leading twice, so they were under pressure due to the away goals rule. In the ninth minute of the game, the guests cheered. Dennis Aogo uncompromisingly hit the left corner of the goal with a free kick from 18 meters. But while the teammates were celebrating Aogo, referee Christian Dingert had contact with the Cologne basement after the Berlin players had intervened. The hit was checked – and finally denied after video evidence.

Relegation second leg 2019: VfB striker Nicolas Gonzalez (far left) is offside when Dennis Aogo (right) scores a free kick and irritates the Union goalkeeper

Stuttgart attacker Nicolas Gonzalez was a meter offside and, according to the VAR, blocked Union keeper Rafal Gikiewicz from sight. The passive became active offside, no goal for VfB, it remained at 0:0. And that for the full 90 minutes.

“The First Video Descent in History”

The Irons then presented a blueprint of their current style of play. Closely staggered, they kept the zero with automated defensive structures and great resilience, because that was enough as long as Stuttgart didn’t score a goal. And as is well known, the guests didn’t succeed – so the next descent after 2016 was sealed.

“The first video descent in history” was the headline at the time on the boulevard, while Union was promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time. As a result, both clubs developed diametrically differently.

A disappointed Christian Gentner after the relegation second leg at Union Berlin (0:0) 2019

VfB Stuttgart was able to repair the “work accident relegation” in the following season, but in a less convincing way. The resurgence was due more to the weakness of the competition than to their own strength. In addition, the coach Tim Walter, who was committed after relegation, had to leave early. His successor Pellegrino Matarazzo finally managed to return to the Bundesliga as second in the table.

A wave of euphoria carries VfB through the 2020/2021 season

There, the young team, put together by the then sports director Sven Mislintat, was carried by a real wave of euphoria in the first season after promotion. The “new young wild ones” never had anything to do with the relegation battle. The emotional highlight was a brilliant 5-1 away win at Borussia Dortmund in mid-December 2020. At the end of the season, VfB Stuttgart finished in a strong ninth place, although the first dark clouds were gathering over Bad Cannstatt off the field. An open letter from the then CEO Thomas Hitzlsperger to VfB President Claus Vogt pointed to major discord in the management floor.

In terms of sport, the “supposed truth” came true that the second year after promotion is the hardest. Battered by serious injuries and the corona pandemic, Stuttgart played a largely weak round and only managed to stay up in the last minute – in the most dramatic way.

YouTube video from SWR Sport Fußball: “Last second: VfB Stuttgart secures relegation against Cologne – YOUR VfB #31 | SWR Sport”

Red lantern after 25 matchdays

Even in the current season, there is little or nothing going on at Stuttgart. Only at the beginning of October was Matarazzo firedthen followed during the World Cup break the separation from sports director Sven Mislintat – after differences with the new VfB boss Alexander Wehrle. The Swabians also owed almost everything on the field. The result is 18th place after 25 matchdays, the highest risk of relegation. And now the away match at Union Berlin is waiting. The opponent from 2019, who then took off as a Bundesliga novice.

YouTube video from SWR Sport Fußball: “VfB Stuttgart in need of relegation – YOUR VfB #62 | SWR Sport”

To put it bluntly, one could say that the Irons did everything right that was wrongly decided at VfB. It starts with the continuity in the coaching position. Promotion coach Urs Fischer is still in office and is now even a hot candidate for numerous clubs where the place on the bench is vacant again. Because the Swiss does a top job.

Union continues with strong leadership that radiates cohesion to the outside world. President Dirk Zingler and manager Oliver Ruhnert work closely together and also do outstanding work.

Strong players go, strong replacements come

And the team performs – almost regardless of who is on the field. There are no superstars at Union. Outstanding players often leave the club, such as Max Kruse or Taiwo Awoniyi. She often moves on to more solvent clubs.

Almost a unique selling point of Union Berlin is that the new players replace the old players almost 1:1. This is also due to coach Fischer and his system, in which the roles are clearly defined. Criticism of the FCU’s often uninitiative style of play rolls off – after all, the iron ones are very successful with it. The sporting development of the capital club deserves the highest recognition.

Sensational athletic development

After promotion, Union held the class in eleventh place in the 2019/2020 season, before the sensational first qualifying for European business, the UEFA Conference League, took place the following year in seventh place. Anyone who thought that the team would now reach its limits without supposed superstars and slip down like so many other clubs due to the double burden was once again mistaken. In 2021/2022 Union finished fifth, entered the Europa League and missed fourth place, which entitles you to participate in the Champions League, by just one point.

On course royal class

And anyone who thought that the Berliners would have to hit the ceiling was once again wrong. In the current season, the Köpenickers have mastered another development step and were even leaders from the sixth to the twelfth match day. Union also caused a sensation internationally, knocking out top European club Ajax Amsterdam in the round of 32 after the group stage, before losing to St. Gilloise from Belgium in the round of 16. But the Berliners could create something sensational again in the Bundesliga. After 25 matchdays, the Irons are on course in third place.

So now the reunion with VfB Stuttgart. Some are doing great, others are up to their necks in water. Some are an established Bundesliga team, others are afraid of becoming a lift team. A development that was not foreseeable in 2019.