“It’s cool to have a home match.” Jürgen Klopp mused on Thursday. It’s the second last in a Dortmund tracksuit for the foreseeable future for the Dortmund coach. As we quietly wipe away a tear, Klopp has no time for sentimental thoughts. He must set up a team that wins all three points on Saturday, or otherwise BVB will have to cling onto winning the DFB Pokal in Berlin – that is where FC Bayern aren’t going – in order to secure EL.
But want to keep things interesting in the league, don’t we? With Hertha BSC (H), VfL Wolfsburg (A) and Werder Bremen (H) left to play, Dortmund simply have to win their home matches in order to finish in the refurbished promised land (which once was called a top four place), meaning seventh place at worst. So what can happen on Match day 32?
Hoffenheim play in Frankfurt, who have failed to impress in the last couple of weeks and aren’t really a side to put too much trust on. Werder Bremen visit Hannover, who haven’t won a game in 2015. That should speak for itself. FC Augsburg travel to Munich, which would usually mean a certain loss. But in Bayern’s current state it’s hard to predict what will happen. The 3-0 loss in Barcelona will give Pep no other choice to field a B team, which at least includes the most professional player he’s ever seen – Mario Götze. At this rate it’s hard to keep faith for Dortmund’s competitors to drop points.
So how will BVB fare against Hertha?
The Old Lady only won 1 out of their last 5 matches. Sounds reaffirming, doesn’t it? Then again, they only lost 3 of their last 10 games and those 3 losses came against Wolfsburg, Bayern and Gladbach.
On paper, Dortmund should easily win the match. But on the field, it hasn’t exactly been that way. Hertha Berlin won 3 out of their last 5 games against Dortmund, two of those in the Westfalenstadion. Not so reaffirming.
Without a doubt, Hertha are great at giving Borussia Dortmund a hard time. They will sit deep, will defend with eleven players behind the ball and wait for their moment. It worked like a charm for them in the reverse fixture, which handed Berlin a 1-0 victory. A match Dortmund fans should rather forget, because it was simply horrible. BVB couldn’t find a successful measure to break down the Hertha defense, who waited for one bad pass into midfield to win the ball and score on the counter.
But it gets worse. It was no other than Julian Schieber to score the winner – with basically the same move as Leo Messi scored the 2-0 against FC Bayern on Wednesday. Instead of Boateng it was Sebastian Kehl who fell on the ground like a wet sack of potatoes. Only one other impression is left of this game. Ciro Immobile missing a header in the final minutes, standing right on the six-yard line centrally in front of goal and still putting the ball remarkably wide. Horrible.
Dortmund fans can only hope that Immobile will do better on Saturday. The chances are looking great that Immobile will be in the starting lineup. Apart from Marco Reus, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Adrian Ramos are out injured as well. Kevin Kampl would have started in Kuba’s wake, but he is suspended as well after seeing his fifth yellow against Hoffenheim.
So, Aubameyang will most likely move on the wing next to Kagawa and Mkhitaryan and Immobile will feature as lone striker. In theory, that isn’t too bad, because Immobile is the kind of player, who will tussle with Berlin’s center backs and throw them off their game. Somebody should also tell him that Hertha goalie Thomas Kraft likes to spill the ball every now and then – something BVB could provoke with shots from long range. Just a thought.
Either way, I expect Dortmund to show a better performance than against Hoffenheim, where they were visibly fatigued from the cup match. Jürgen Klopp had a whole week to prepare his side for the match and should have found a few ways to unlock Berlin’s tight defense. It has been a huge problem for Dortmund, to beat sides that shape up like Hertha. Their defensive midfield with Lustenberger and Skjelbred doesn’t sound too glamorous, but it’s good enough to hinder BVB from playing through the center. Mkhitaryan and Kagawa both need to find some magic in the combination play, or else it will be a drab afternoon.
“I want to see the meaning of the match translate into intensity on the field” Klopp said before the game and it’s not only meaningful in the context of finishing in the top 7, but also in the context of the DFB Pokal final. BVB need to have something left to play for on Match day 34, or otherwise the tension will drop. A win against Hertha will make sure of that.