Wake up, Bundesliga. After a short hiatus due to the final Euro qualification matches, it’s time for some league action again. Bayern will take on Hertha in Munich tomorrow afternoon. Your questions shall be answered in this preview.
How much do you know about the current Hertha squad? Don’t be afraid to tell the truth, many don’t know more than that the entire lineup consists of former FCB players (or something like that…). Don’t panic, I asked Hertha fan Conni (follow on Twitter) to write a bit so that you can embiggen your knowledge of the club. Enjoy.
Nine matchdays into the season, newly re-promoted Hertha take on the Rekordmeister. They’ve already beaten current title-holders BVB Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion and are fresh off a decisive home victory over 1. FC Köln. Hertha stands at tenth place in the table with twelve points (2 losses, 3 draws, 3 wins).
The team that took the 2. Bundesliga title last season is largely unchanged. Babbel prefers to stay with a tried and true formation rather than experiment, especially when the opponent is strong offensively. Barring injury, expect to see Christian Lell, captain Andre Mijatovic, Roman Hubnik, and Lewan Kobiashvili in the back line, and Thomas Kraft in goal. Options for substitutes are Christoph Janker, who played against Köln while Lell was serving out his one-match ban, Sebastian Neumann, and Maik Franz, who has been out with a broken nose.
Out in front, the options are a bit broader. Early in the season, Andreas Ottl, Peter Niemeyer, Patrick Ebert, and Tunay Torun would start in the middle, with Raffael as a quasi-striker in an attacking midfield position, for something between a 4-2-2-2 and a 4-2-3-1 with Adrian Ramos on point. However, Änis Ben-Hatira has been starting on the left wing in place of Torun in recent weeks. I would expect to see an Ottl-Niemeyer-Ebert-Ben Hatira-Raffael midfield. Raffael (3 goals, 2 assists) brings creativity to the pitch, and the Lell-Ebert combination on the right works quite well. Niemeyer works hard, and his defensive characteristics are important to the team. Fabian Lustenberger is a smart, young player, and, though he consistently started last season, he’s only been a substitute so far this one, coming on (often for Ebert) when a more defensive orientation is needed. Raffael’s brother Ronny hasn’t played much this season, partly because he returned from vacation out of shape and has had a hard time keeping up with the fitness regimen.
Ramos has scored one goal this season, and he’s currently recovering from an operation to remove a cyst from his backside. Youngster Pierre-Michel Lasogga (3 goals) scored a brace against Köln while Ramos was sitting out his one-match ban, and he’s started in half the matches so far. Australian Nikita Rukavytsya is a potential substitute. The latest reports suggest Ramos is fit to start, so expect him in the starting XI.
While coach Markus Babbel prefers to play a consistent formation, he isn’t afraid to change his tactical set-up if it’s necessary. Last season, he started with a 4-1-4-1 and moved to a 4-2-2-2 or 4-2-3-1 for the last half. In the 4-2-3-1, he played natural strikers on the left wing (Rukavystya or Ramos) to feed Lasogga, as well as to take opportunities themselves, and put Niemeyer and a defensively-minded partner (Lustenberger or Ronny) in the back, with Ebert and Raffael as midfield playmakers. This season, he’s followed a similar plan, putting Ottl in back with Niemeyer. For an in-depth look at last season, have a look HERE.
Hertha’s defense is a long-standing problem. The acquisition of Kraft has given some much-needed consistency over Maikel Aerts from last season, but defending on set pieces, especially corners, is atrocious. As of the Augsburg match (MD 6), six of the seven conceded goals were off set pieces, and at least one of the goals conceded to Bremen was on a set piece, making seven out of nine goals conceded on set pieces.
Hertha vs Bayern
Manuel Neuer has only conceded one goal this season, so even the poaching skills of Lasogga are unlikely to get past his hands. I wouldn’t expect an attacking-oriented lineup, but rather a focus on defense with quick counterattacks like against Dortmund. They’ll park the bus to prevent Gomez and the rest from getting in, but set-piece defending will be awful. As usual.
Thanks a lot, Conni.
As for Bayern, you surely know that Arjen Robben won’t be available for another few weeks and that Breno still isn’t fit. Furthermore, Rafinha is doubtful due to the injury that already cost him the match against Hoffenheim. Right now I’d say it’s 75/25, if you’re looking for a more detailed prediction, call Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk has (or had) the flu but is expected to be available. I even expect him to start since Luiz Gustavo only returned to Germany on Thursday (national team action in Mexico). Ivica Olic will finally make his comeback to the squad and sit on the bench. The others are all available and ready to once more neither concede nor lose. I expect these lineups:
Rafinha – Boateng – Badstuber – Lahm
Tymoshchuk – Schweinsteiger
Müller – Kroos – Ribery
Ben-Hatira – Raffael – Ebert
Ottl – Niemeyer
Kobiashvili – Mijatovic – Hubnik – Lell
For further questions and updates, you can always contact me on Twitter and I heard that the comments section isn’t too shabby, either.