In 2014/2015 Hertha finished just above the relegation spots. After an impressive seventh place finish last season, they currently sit on second place above Dortmund in the Bundesliga. What makes Hertha so strong this season?
The media and also a considerable amount of Hertha-fans strongly criticised manager Michael Preetz for sparse activities during this summer transfer window. However, Pal Dardai and Michael Preetz have completely refuted their critic/doubters.
Instead of making great changes, they reaffirmed the existing players by believing the team could make the next step in its development. And thus far they were right to do so! We now have a very harmonious team that is familiar with our playing style. The players know each other well and our signings (Alexander Esswein, Allan, Ondrej Duda) are great supplements to make us even stronger this season.
That the persons in charge were reluctant to tinker with last season’s well-oiled machine is underlined by the fact that it took until Matchday 5 (3-3 draw against Frankfurt) for one of the new arrivals to have a direct impact on the game. Esswein scored Hertha’s third after coming on shortly after halftime.
Previously, Berlin had won their first three matches and only picked up one loss which came against Bayern Munich. Our track record so far clearly shows that Dardai worked hard on this team.
The competition within the squad has never been as tough since the 40-year-old took over. Vladimir Darida might be one of the most important players for our team and after he got injured against Schalke 04, Valentin Stocker replaced him: A player which had almost zero impact last season and ogled with a summer move. He then scored the second goal against Schalke and assisted two more goals against Frankfurt and Hamburg. A perfect indicator for our main strength this season!
Borussia Dortmund has to deal with a lot of injuries. Has Hertha coach Pal Dardai to make do without essential player on Friday?
Apart from our main summer signing Ondrej Duda, who is still recovering from an injury he sustained at the Euro 2016, and Vladimir Darida, who might be out for the rest of the year, former captain Fabian Lustenberger will miss the match due to a bone bruise.
Lustenberger was in a fantastic form this season, he will be replaced by Niklas Stark, who will move from central defence to defensive midfield. Luckily, centre-back John-Anthony Brooks recovered in time for Dortmund, so he can fill in for Stark at the heart of defence.
Unfortunately, Julian Schieber can’t play against his former colleagues due to muscular problems. Peter Pekarik, however, recovered from a torn muscle fibre and Salomon Kalou is also back after he was allowed to travel to Ivory coast due to a family tragedy. The latter won’t be fit enough to be start but is expected to come off the bench.
BVB are about to set a new record at the Westfalenstadion. Never before have they been unbeaten in 25 league matches. How could Hertha deny that record?
Well, obviously it will be more than tough. Dortmund are unbeaten in 24 matches for a reason. It is very hard to play at the Westfalenstadion for every team, just ask Real Madrid. Even though we’re winless in four against Dortmund. including the painful semifinal defeat in the German cup, we are actually quite optimistic for this Friday. We proved under Pal Dardai that we can be a very challenging and unpleasant opponent for any team. Aggressive against the ball, confident with the ball, very quick in transition from defence to offence, and – with a chance conversion of 42.3 percent – the most efficient team in front of the goal.
What are Berlin’s weaknesses Dortmund could exploit?
Last season, and especially in the DFB Pokal semifinal against Dortmund, we clearly saw that our team gets into trouble when the opponent comes at us with very fast attacks. We failed to defend Ramos, Reus and Kagawa coming in with high speed. Aubameyang, Dembele and Pulisic won’t make any difference in that sense. Players like Weigl can have the vision to bring those fast players into and potentially take Hertha’s defence by surprise. It will be our main challenge to cut off the delivery to Dortmund’s attack.
This season, that weakness was still visible against Frankfurt and Hamburg, where we had problems against fast wingers (Blum, Kostic, Wood etc.) and conceded very poorly defended goals.
And lastly, where will Hertha finish this season?
My guess before this season was 9th place, but I think I’ll have to readjust. As I mentioned above, Hertha have improved over the summer in my opinion, so I will say 6th place.