Head coach Pal Dardai could hardly have imagined a more unfortunate start to the season. The Old Lady did not have a single point after the first three Bundesliga games against FC Köln (1-3), VfL Wolfsburg (1-2) and Bayern Munich (0-5). The so ambitious side from the capital, who the Hertha investors describe as the "Big city club", had to manage the first crisis quickly. And the Hertha Berlin players provided the right answer on the pitch with two victories against the two promoted clubs from Bochum (3-1) and Fürth (2-1). It looked like the Hertha ship was back on course. But appearances can be deceptive: The Berliners suffered a crushing 6-0 defeat against RB Leipzig and then lost at home to SC Freiburg (1-2).
What followed was a response to a wake-up call: Dedryck Boyata and Co. first secured a 2-1 win away to Eintracht Frankfurt and that was followed by a 1-0 victory at home over Borussia Mönchengladbach. Hertha clocked up a third win in succession in the second round of the DFB Cup away to Regional League Preußen Münster (3-1). According to form, that run should have continued on the last Bundesliga matchday at TSG Hoffenheim but the mission failed (0-2). "Now we have to look to being more compact again," said defendant Niklas Stark after the game. Ahead of the meeting with the Werkself, the Old Lady are twelfth in the table on twelve points.
The Hertha captain Dedryck Boyata will miss Sunday’s game. The 30-year-old central defender was shown a red card for serious foul play against Hoffenheim's Angelo Stiller and he has been hit with a three-match ban by the German Football Association (DFB). Coach Dardai will also have to manage without goalkeeper Rune Jarstein (coronavirus) and Lukas Klünter (shoulder injury).
One player who has recently come into the limelight at Hertha is Marco Richter. The winger moved to the capital last summer from FC Augsburg but initially only made appearances from the bench. Now the 23-year-old is a regular first choice: Richter has recently started five games in succession and he repaid the confidence of Dardai with three goals. Richter is currently the top scorer and provider at Hertha Berlin with a total of three goal involvements (two goals, one assist).
Hertha Berlin have a real set piece specialist in their ranks in Marvin Plattenhardt. That is reflected in the statistics: the Blue and Whites have scored more than half of their goals (6 out of 11) from set pieces. That makes Hertha the fifth most prolific team from dead balls in the Bundesliga.
As impressive as the Berlin team’s record is from their own set-pieces, there is room for improvement when the boot is on the other foot: Hertha have already conceded nine goals from dead balls – the second highest number in the Bundesliga. Only newcomers Greuther Fürth have been more susceptible at the back. The Clover leaves have already let in eleven goals from set-pieces. The Hertha Berlin keeper Alexander Schwolow has had to pick the ball out of the net 23 times in the Bundesliga campaign so far. Here too, only the Fürth defence (27) has been more leaky by comparison. The loss of the captain and key defender Boyata, with only three goals conceded in the last three games when he was playing, could have a serious effect.
In spite of the 2-0 defeat at Hoffenheim, the performance curve of the Berlin side has recently been on the up after an unsuccessful start of the season. However, the team will miss an absolutely key player in the centre of defence in the coming weeks with the absence of Boyata. Nevertheless, the team under head coach pal Dardai – in all areas of the pitch – has enough quality to compensate for that loss. A finish in the top ten is probably both realistic and acceptable as the target for the season for the club from the capital.
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