Berlin is always worth a trip
It’s a famous German saying that reflects the attractiveness of our former and now again capital city for domestic and international tourists alike. Whether you are looking for the high culture if its museums, the world-famous architecture or buzzing nightlife, the former western enclave has much to offer. Only in the football department has Berlin never been able to attract fortuna’s blessing. Besides from playing close to the bottom of the table this year, they have been churning through coaches and players alike, desperate to bring about the turnaround. Only 20 points and 84 scoring opportunities after 21 games however speak a clear language and it is not the one of the roman goddess of luck and success.
Black and yellow dream
On the Dortmund side of life, things look rather different right now. Our young-guns are a mere 90 minutes away from beating the 2nd longest streak without a loss in club history. Assuming a win or tie tomorrow, Borussia will be able to look back at 16 consecutive games without a loss in the Bundesliga. Add to that the current spot at the top of the Bundesliga table and the more than impressive performances in the DFB cup that may give us another trip to Berlin this year and one may think that we have all fallen into a collective black-and-yellow dream. I however are convinced that we are rather grounded in reality right now. A very good reality maybe but still solid and tangible. The squad is not just playing pretty fooball but smart and efficient. Our management and coaching staff is making all the right moves. We may not be on par with the posh Bavarians but we are a mighty Teutonian force these days. One that I have more confidence in than just a year ago and we all know how that ended.
Big city woes
In Berlin meanwhile, a new man is at the helm. Rene Tretschok has taken over the blue-and-white a mere three days ago. The same Rene Tretschok who famously scored for Borussia in their semi final match against Manchester on their way to the 1997 Champions League final and eventual victory. The 5 year BVB veteran is replacing former black-and-yellow coach Michael Skibbe after a rather brief stint in the capital. The situation Tretschok is inheriting is rather catastrophic. After being relegated to the 2nd Bundesliga in the 2009/2010 season, Hertha has been struggling to gain a foothold in the premier German league again. Currently in 15th place, Berlin is fighting against repeated relegation.
The situation itself may just be the only thing left in Hertha’s advantage. The new coach and the abysmal outlook may create powers that have so far eluded the players. Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp chose a analogy from the animal kingdom to describe the situation in Berlin: “Wounded big cats are known to be the most dangerous. We know that and we are prepared.” Klopp, who already gave a similar talk about last weeks opponents, attesting them “brutal strength” is very carefully setting the stage for his squad to focus and not underestimate any of the remaining 14 opponents.
In the Dortmund camp, the topic of the week was the unfortunate injury of Shinji Kagawa, who will be out for about two weeks. This raises the question of who will lead the offense of our young guns this week and next. While the loss of two creative drivers lof last year’s success - Goetze and Kagawa - may have created a panic just a few weeks ago, the overall strength and performance of the whole squad in recent weeks creates a reassuring layer of confidence that Klopp has all the choices and talent needed to compensate for the loss.
A well-tested alternative and the apparent favorite of most experts around Dortmund is to move striker Lewandowski to the offensive midfield position and field recent problem child Lucas Barrios as the nominal striker. This option already worked several times towards the end of last season when Kagawa was out after injuring himself in a national cap for Japan. Another option may be to either field Leitner - who was able to impress as a more offensive Bender replacement - or the struggeling Guendogan. These options however are less tested and carry more risk.
Besides the offensive changes, the remaining Dortmund squad is likely to be unchanged. The defense is solid around Hummels and Subotic and the sides have been key to the recent successes and are likely to stay.
In news off the pitch, Borussia Dortmund supporters are dutifully following the calling of the largest German city and are expected to show up in sizable numbers. An estimated 15,000 supporters are expected in the city tomorrow. The only thing between them and a colorfull and loud game may be the fact that Berlin’s public transportation network will be on strike all day with no Bus or Subway lines operating. Light Rail service is being increased to compensate but massive delays are to be expected.
The 1,000th Bundesliga game for Berlin is going to be sold out - clearly driven by the strong showing of the Dortmund supporters - and will hopefully make for the backdrop of the 16th consecutive non-loss this season.
Line-up: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer - S. Bender, Kehl - Kuba, Lewandowski, Großkreutz - Barrios
Bench: Langerak (Goalie), Felipe Santana, Löwe, Owomoyela, Bakalorz, da Silva, Gündogan, Leitner, Perisic
Hertha BSC Berlin
Line-up: Morales, Hubnik, Mijatovic, Kobiashvili - Ebert, Niemeyer, Raffael, Bastians - Ramos, Lasogga
Bench: Aerts (Goalie), Burchert (Goalie), Brooks, Janker, Neumann, Ben-Hatira, Perdedaj, Ronny, Rukavytsya, Schulz, Djuricin, Kargbo, Torun
Referee: Fritz (Korb)
Assistants: Wezel (Tubingen), Walz (Pfedelbach)
4th Official: Christ (Munchweiler)
Match time: Saturday 3.30 pm CET (9:30 am EST)
Location: Olympiastadion Berlin, sold out at 74,000