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The winter break is on the horizon, allowing clubs across the Bundesliga to take stock of the first half of the season. Borussia Dortmund’s mood at the midway point of the campaign will be heavily influenced by the outcome of their trip to the capital on Saturday. If Dortmund win and remain behind six points behind Bayern Munich after 17 matches, they cannot be too disappointed with how things have gone so far. Keeping pace with Bayern is difficult at the best of times; the current team managed by Julian Nagelsmann is one of the strongest sides in Europe, further complicating Dortmund’s task.
Six points feels like the maximum deficit for BVB to stay in the title race. Even a team as imperious as Bayern can slip up unexpectedly on occasion, as their surprise defeats by Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg illustrated. There is also one more head-to-head match between Germany’s big two to come. Dortmund are clearly outsiders to win the league and Bayern will be happy with a six-point lead, but for now at least we cannot definitely rule BVB out.
However, a failure to beat Hertha this weekend would leave Marco Rose and his players feeling glum over the Christmas period. With Bayern expected to beat Wolfsburg, a draw or defeat at the Olympiastadion would leave Dortmund seven or nine points adrift of the summit of the standings. With Bayern as good as they are, that gap would surely prove insurmountable.
There is plenty riding on Saturday’s contest, then. Even if you take a pessimistic viewpoint and dismiss Dortmund’s championship chances already, a victory in Berlin would at least tighten their grip on second place ahead of Bayer Leverkusen, Hoffenheim and Freiburg. Rose will be desperate for all three points this weekend.
A 2-0 victory over Arminia Bielefeld last weekend suggested Hertha Berlin might have turned a corner. That was their third game on the bounce without defeat following draws with Augsburg and Stuttgart, and there were tentative signs that Pal Dardai’s side had become harder to beat. Yet Hertha were brought back down to earth with a thud in the midweek round of fixtures, as they suffered a 4-0 thrashing by Mainz.
That was a hugely disappointing result for Hertha, and one which leaves them looking nervously over their shoulder ahead of matchday 17. Defeats are inevitable and results can go against you, but the manner of the performance on Tuesday was bitterly disappointing. Hertha were outplayed, outfought and outthought by Mainz. Bo Svensson’s side might be flying high in sixth spot, but Hertha’s inability to compete with them was concerning.
The club from the capital are just a point ahead of the relegation play-off spot as they prepare to face Dortmund, although a five-point gap separates them from the bottom two. The clean sheet they kept in the 2-0 win against Arminia Bielefeld last weekend was only their second of the campaign.
Only last-placed Greuther Furth, who are clearly out of their depth at the highest level of German soccer, have conceded more goals than Hertha this term. Dardai’s side must tighten up at the back if they want to ensure they are not playing in the 2. Bundesliga in 2021/22.
A game against Dortmund is unlikely to be the one in which Hertha suddenly rediscover their defensive resolve, however. BVB are averaging 2.44 goals per game in the Bundesliga this season. That has been somewhat overshadowed by Bayern Munich’s extraordinary average of 3.25 per match, but it is a fabulous return nonetheless. It would probably have been even better had Erling Haaland not missed several matches through injury.
The Norway international is fit and firing again, and looking to add to his remarkable tally of 76 goals in 74 appearances for Dortmund in all competitions. He is far from the only attacking threat in Rose’s side, though, and it is difficult to see Hertha being able to contain their opponents for 90 minutes.
Dortmund’s display in their 3-0 triumph over Greuther Furth in midweek was not particularly convincing, but that was perhaps in part because they were playing the weakest team in the division and did not feel they needed to be on top of their game to collect all three points.
Dortmund will be seeking a handsome win this weekend to round off the first half of the campaign. Hertha’s frailties mean it is worth backing a BVB victory and over 2.5 goals – a bet that would have been successful in 10 of Dortmund’s 11 wins this season.
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|Hertha Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund Information
|Hertha Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund
|Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany
|Saturday, 18 December 2021, 12.30 PM EST
|How to watch
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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