VfB Stuttgart against 1.FC Union Berlin. This is the line-up for the two relegation matches between the 16th of the first Bundesliga and the 3rd of the second Bundesliga after this season. Two games that will decide, which of the two teams will play in Germany's highest football league next season, and who will play in league number two.
On paper this is a very clear matter, all statistics should speak for the current representative of the first Bundesliga, the team from Stuttgart.
For many football fans, including some people in Germany, Union Berlin is often just another team from the capital that wants to step out of the shadow of the more known team of Hertha BSC Berlin.
But anyone who would start looking at Union a bit more closely will soon discover that here in the Southeast of Berlin, in the district of Köpenick, there is a club that can proudly look back on long traditions and a very special relationship with its fans.
What professional team has fans who helped building their own stadium? Or fans who have acquired shares in the stadium company so that their beloved arena cannot become the plaything of unscrupulous investors?
Here at Union a very special relationship has developed between club, team and supporters which has become rare in today's world of professional football. In recent years the team has established itself in the upper regions of the 2nd Bundesliga, a few years ago one could only have dreamed of this success.
For the first time this season they were very close to the big thing, the promotion to the first German Bundesliga. After the 34th match day, they finished on the third place with the same number of points as the runner-up SC Paderborn, only because of the worse goal ratio. Union even finished before the famous Hamburger SV, but thrid place means no direct promotion.
That's why this season is not over for Union Berlin yet, as an extra bonus there are now two relegation games against VfB Stuttgart, two tough games in which the team from Berlin is of course the clear underdog.
But that's what Union has always been all about. If a team had leased the term "underdog", it would have been Union Berlin. They've had enough hard times to survive, and that's exactly why they celebrate themselves in every given game now. Third place in the second Bundesliga is the biggest success this club has achieved since the German reunification, when they started to fight for points in the all-German football leagues.
And now they has the big chance for the adventure of the 1st Bundesliga. Of course the big VfB Stuttgart has to be defeated first, but even if it shouldn't be enough in the end, the whole club, team and fans alike can be proud of themselves.
On Thursday the team of coach Fischer will go to Stuttgart for the first of the two relegation games. After this bad season, the VfB will of course be in for a hard fight about all or nothing, and psychologically Union could even have an advantage. They don't have to go up at all, many of the Union fans would celebrate another year in the 2nd Buli as much as they would in the first.
The atmosphere in the stadium "And der alten Försterei" is already first class now and will be without any doubt in the next season as well. Full house and a great unique feeling guaranteed.
And everyone can see for themselves next Monday, when the return match, the then very last games of the season, will take place. And who knows, maybe we might be even able to witness another football miracle.
Even if in the end it should not be enough for Union, there will still be plenty of cheers and celebrations. In good times and bad times you will always hear countless husky throats shouting loud again and again:
Und niemals vergessen: EISERN UNION!
because this club is unbreakable!