Hertha fans only have a short drive down the A9 to reach Saturday’s opponents RB Leipzig, but will the drive back up North be with a long-awaited three points?
Die Alte Dame travel to the Red Bull Arena unbeaten in their last four Bundesliga matches but they have drawn them all leaving a feeling of dissatisfaction that improved performances are not being rewarded with wins. Sandro Schwarz has definitely improved Hertha this season with the team defensively more stable and quicker to attack on the counter. He has a fairly settled first XI, it’s just time now to start bringing home three points instead on one.
Doing so at the home of the Roten Bullen will be no easy task despite being physically fresher than their opponents. Hertha’s only win in their twelve Bundesliga encounters with Leipzig came away back in 2017 with a 3-2 win. Last season saw the Saxon side hit six goals in both league matches so BSC fans will be wary.
Marco Rose still needs to instil more consistency at Leipzig with good results interspersed with disappointing ones as the club still sit in the bottom half of the table. After beating Dortmund, they lost to Mönchengladbach, after beating Bochum 4-0, they could only draw 1-1 with Mainz.
The last two Champions League clashed with Celtic brought two wins, which has boosted confidence- they just need to carry that forward to Saturday and hand out their now traditional beating to Hertha.
How much rotation Marco Rose is contemplating after the midweek trip to Glasgow remains to be seen. Goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi, Konrad Laimer Lukas Klostermann and Dani Olmo are all longer-term absentee, but Marcel Halstenberg could join them after suffering a rib injury last week at Mainz.
Kevin Kampl could be an option in the midfield, while Emil Forsberg will be hoping his goalscoring substitute appearance against Celtic is rewarded with a start against Hertha.
Possible line-up: Blaswich, Henrichs, Orban, Diallo, Raum, Schlager, Kampl, Forsberg, Nkunku, Werner, Silva
Wilfried Kanga missed last weekend’s game due to illness with Stevan Joveic impressing while deputising. The Montenegrin could continue against Leipzig as Davie Selke is also ill. Jean-Paul Boetius returned to the training pitch this week but is not in contention for selection.
Possible line-up: Christensen; Kenny, Rogel, Kempf, Plattenhardt; Tousart, Sunjic, Serdar; Lukebakio, Jovetic, Ejuke
What they’re saying:
Marco Rose: “Sandro Schwarz has stabilised Hertha. He has a clear plan and ideas and brings a lot of passion. It’s only a matter of time until Hertha begin rewarding themselves regularly, but obviously we want to prevent that on Saturday.
“We’re great friends and we’re really close. After the game we’ll be friends again, but tomorrow we both have jobs to do.
“We’re up against a tricky opponent tomorrow. They’re very intense and aggressive with a clear approach when out of possession. We have to be on our toes.”
Sandro Schwarz: “I’m seeing the team be very active in training. There will be periods of the game on Saturday where we’ll have to defend in a low block, but we can never allow ourselves to be passive. To be fair, I’ve never known these lads to be passive. I feel like the team are giving this challenging game respect, but aren’t nervous. We hope to put in a brave performance in Leipzig.
“It was important to analyse every part of the opposition’s game. Leipzig can do everything. Their team is very active and can counter quickly with deep runs. We will have to be on top form defensively, need a top performance in general and will have to have consistency and bravery both on and off the ball. The main thing, though, is that we won’t just be satisfied with a draw. We always want to perform the best we can.”
11.10.22 Celtic (a) 0-2 W (Champions League_
08.10.22 Mainz (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
05.10.22 Celtic (h) 3-1 W (Champions League)
01.10.22 VfL Bochum (h) 4-0 W (Bundesliga)
17.09.22 Borussia Mönchengladbach (a) 3-0 L (Bundesliga)
09.10.22 Freiburg (h) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
02.10.22 Hoffenheim (h) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
16.09.22 Mainz (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
10.09.22 Bayer Leverkusen (h) 2-2 D (Bundesliga)
04.09.22 Augsburg (a) 0-2 W (Bundesliga)
The corresponding fixture at the Red Bull Arena last season took place on matchday six and the hosts scored six to thrash Hertha, who had no answer to a rampant Leipzig side. Christopher Nkunku, Yussuf Poulsen and Nordi Mukiele scored in the first half, with three more goals arriving in the second period via an Emil Forsberg penalty, a second for Nkunku and one from Amadou Haidara.
Players to watch:
With Niclas Füllkrug banging the goals in for Werder Bremen, the pressure on Timo Werner to be doing the same for Leipzig leading up to the World Cup is very important. He scored in midweek against Celtic and grabbed two against Bochum on matchday 8. A stronger Hertha defence is the nut he must crack this weekend.
Stevan Jovetic deputised well last week and if he can get amongst the goals he might play his way into Sandro Schwarz’s long-term plans’ He has great game intelligence and with Wilfried Kanga struggling for goals, Jovetic could move up the pecking order with a good display at Leipzig.