On the 18th of February, most likely in commemoration of the feast of Saint Colman, the supporters of Borussia Dortmund and Hertha BSC will descend upon Berlin’s magnificent Olympiastadion, a spectacular piece of fascist architecture the size of Dieter Hoeneß’s inferiority complex, in order to witness their respective clubs partake in a rigorous test of football, a veritable Quayle – Bentsen between two of the Bundesliga’s most interesting (to put it politely) sides, both with very different aims for the rest of the rückrunde. While Hertha look to ward off an untimely relegation, Dortmund seek to confirm the old adage that the league title is won in the provinces with a win in Berl… Oh.
One cannot fully analyze this match without looking at her corresponding fixture in the hinrunde, where Markus Babbel’s Hertha lifted themselves into eighth place on the back of a stunning 2-1 win against the reigning champions to cement a second defeat for the Schwartzgelben in only five matches. This was the low point of Dortmund’s season, coincidentally the high point of Hertha’s. Funny how things change, eh?…
Dortmund, the visitors, head into this match on the back of a stellar 15 game unbeaten run, having gone two points clear of Bayern Munich at the top of the table in the process. Similarly, die Schwarzgelben are unhindered by champions league football after being unceremoniously tossed out of a group including an backline marshalled by Per Mertesacker that lost 4-3 to Blackburn, Marseille, and a Panathinaikos side stripped of their attacking destroyer Matt Derbyshire. This has proved a boon for Dortmund, as Die Borussen have entered the second half of the season with a mostly rested squad, and have reaped the rewards accordingly.
Eintracht Frankfurt Hertha camp, the circs (as the legendary former Union Berlin striker Bertram Wooster would call them,) look as dark as die Blauweissen’s new home shirt. Having hired former Eintracht Frankfurt (Where have we seen that before?) coach Michael Skibbe as a replacement for Markus Babbel, the old lady of Berlin promptly lost 5 games on the trot, culminating in a particularly debilitating 4-0 (at half time!) defeat to Bruno Labbadia’s Stuttgart, with the fallout being Skibbe’s sacking the following morning. Which was a shame, really, because I had bet it would be the day after that. There is not, at the time of writing, a replacement.
As for lineups, Borussia Dortmund will more likely than not play a backline of Lukasz Piszczek, Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels, and Marcel Schmelzer, protecting Roman Weidenfeller’s goal. Sven Bender and Sebastian Kehl will fill in Dortmund’s holding midfield spots, while Jakub Blaczy… I’m going to stop myself right there, Robert Lewandowski, and Kevin Grosskreutz will form an attacking trident spearheaded by Lucas Barrios. It will be interesting to see how this side, somewhat bereft of creativity in the absence of Shinji Kagawa and Mario Götze will be able to cope against the… Never mind that, this is Hertha.
As the old Chinese proverb doesn’t state: “Speak of Hertha, and Hertha arrives,” and so it proves to be the case in this situation. The Berlin club are more likely than not to play a solid 4-4-2, deploying a defence of Thomas Kraft in goal with Roman Hubnik and Andre Mijatovic playing in front of him, Andre Morales and Levan Kobiashvili flanking the pair on the left and right respectively. Patrick “Roger” Ebert and Felix Bastians will be utilized as their more advanced equivalents, whilst Raffael and Peter Niemeyer will play in a midfield that makes one yearn for the tactically adventurous era of the early 1930s, though, considering that the pair scored a goal apiece in Hertha’s triumph over Dortmund in the hinrunde, my cynicism may be misplaced. Adrian Ramos and Pierre Lassoga will provide a fine battery upfront.
If you’ve read this segment before, you’ll likely know that this is the part where I attempt to predict the upcoming match with nothing but my own slender mental capacity, and today is no exception. This match will more likely than not be a one-sided rout, yet not as one-sided as some other recent Hertha matches have been. The first ten minutes will be wholly dictated by Dortmund, finally culminating in a Robert Lewandowski goal. The score will be doubled three minutes later by the Pole once more. From this point, the Berlin club will regroup. Similarly, Dortmund move into more defensive positions, willing to consolidate on their assumed victory. This sorry state of affairs continues on until the final whistle, with every neutral and quite a few of the more partisan elements of both supporters wishing they had instead stayed home and watched the absolute belter of a match that was the Nordderby between Hamburg and Bremen instead. Oh well.
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