A trip to Berlin - but not for sightseeing!
Germany's capital city has a lot of attractions! The Brandenburger Tor, Potsdamer Platz, a lot of museums or the Reichstag, only a few to mention! But during the last months the matches of Hertha BSC in Berlin's Olympiastadium. will become another new attraction, even for the people living in Berlin!
Supporters of Hertha BSC are not so very blessed during the last decades. The last German championships of Hertha are only in the the minds of our
grandfathers: 1930 and 1931. Since the beginning of the Bundesliga, Hertha played for 28 years in Germany's first division. But not without some interruptions. After several relegations Hertha became a constant member of Bundesliga since 1997. In season 1999/2000 Hertha even played in the Champions league, for Hertha fans sadly the last highlight in the club's chronicle.
But now Hertha is one of the big surprises in the league. Currently on top position and this for the 5th time in 2009! Who of all the football experts would have seen Hertha as a favourite for the title race at the beginning of the season? Even Hertha's hardcore supporters sometimes think - it must be a fairy tale. In season 2007/08 Hertha ended up on position 10 and now they are on top of the table!
We all have to notice that it's definitely not a fairy tale it's rather resulting from a couple of effects: All time favourite Bayern Munich doesn't show a constant performance and other teams had too much ups and downs to dominate clearly in the league. But it seems to be unfair to see the main reason for Berlin's success in the weakness of other teams. Swiss coach Lucien Favre has built up an efficient team. Efficient, because Hertha's matches are no eye-candy: 6 defeats, 4 draws and 15 wins. The wins include 4 results with a 1:0 and 7 further matches also with a difference of only one goal in favour of Hertha. But all in all, enough to be on top of the league at the moment. It's interesting that Berlin's most popular team member joined the club only in September last year: Andrey Voronin. The striker from Ukraine is the big star in Berlin's squad and has overshadowed the Serbian goalgetter but also "enfant terrible" Marko Pantelic. Voronin, on loan from Liverpool is Hertha's top scorer with 11 goals so far.
What we can expect in the Olympiastadium on Saturday?
It' s uncertain if defender Arne Friedrich will return into Hertha's team. The German international tored a muscle in Hertha's last match in Stuttgart. Also the come back of the young midfielder Patrick Ebert is not finally clear. His nightly trip together with injured BVB- and former Hertha-player Kevin Prince Boateng was excellent feed for the boulevard press. Consequence for Ebert was Favre's decision to suspend him for Hertha's match in Stuttgart. Maybe on Saturday he will join the A-team again. But Hertha's squad has enough high potential beyond: Goalkeeper Drobny, defenders Simunic, Midfielders Dardai, Cicero and Nicu would play an important role in every Bundesliga team. Beside the mentioned forwards Voronin and perhaps Pantelic, Borussia's defensive has to keep also an eye on Brazilian striker Raffael.
Borussia's team lineup includes some handicaps. First of all our midfielders Tinga and Boateng are confirmed non-starters. Tinga got his one game suspension during the last match against Bremen. Boateng is still knee-injured and could only start with running training during this week. Other bad news for Borussia's midfield are that Florian Kringe is struggling with thigh problems and probably will not be able to play on Saturday. "The doc hasn't written him off yet", coach Jürgen Klopp revealed. Not an easy part for the remaining midfielders Sebastian Kehl, Nuri Sahin and Tamas Hajnal. Maybe Jakub Blascykowski will give BVB's midfield additional support.
Defender Mats Hummels, is still injured and hopefully all internationals will return unharmed to our team. Nine players were on international duty and travelled around the globe, but for Hertha's internationals the situation is similar.
In the first leg the result of Borussia against Hertha was 1:1. We all saw not a very impressive match. Cicero with a penalty for Hertha and Sebastian Kehl made the goal for Borussia in October last year. After the match Hertha was in position 6 and BVB in position 8. But now it's April 2009, Hertha is on top and our team is at number 9 and 7 points behind the UEFA cup positions.
No secret that Hertha's team will try everything to stay on top. Also Berlin's participation in the next Champions league would create a good base for the club to raise capital especially for a final transfer of Voronin.
But these are not Borussia's issues. Borussia's target is hard to reach but not totally out of sight! Only a string of victories can keep the chance to play in the European cup next year. A defeat in Berlin would reduce the chance dramatically. Hopefully the long awaited first win in 2009 against Bremen will be enough motivation to continue with positive results.
Two goals of Alexander Frei and one goal of Tamas Hajnal in the World Cup qualifying games this week are maybe a happy omen for Saturday.