RB Leipzig will look to build on their smashing victory from the weekend as they get ready to host Hertha Berlin at the Red Bull Arena.
The Bundesliga gears up for its first midweek round since returning post a two-month hiatus. After restarting the season in rather underwhelming fashion, things went back to normal for RB Leipzig as they dismantled 1. FSV Mainz 05, putting five unanswered goals past them, inspired by hat-trick hero Timo Werner.
Leipzig have enjoyed an impressive campaign so far, sitting in third place, seven points clear off leaders Bayern Munich. They have suffered the least number of defeats in the league (3), one less than Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Not only have they scored the third-highest number of goals, but they have also managed to concede the fewest of any team.
Things have not been as rosy for Hertha, who have had – we are not saying this lightly – a rollercoaster of a season, much like the rest of the league. They have been flirting with relegation and a mid-table finish for a while now.
The Berin-based outfit went as low as 17th after the first couple of matchdays, but after two more fixtures were up to 10th. However, four consecutive losses between Matchdays 10 and 14 meant they had to go close to the dragon’s lair again.
Hertha have performed better over the last two matchdays, putting a total of seven goals past Hoffenheim and Union Berlin since the restart. They are led by veteran Vedad Ibisevic, who has scored five goals in the season, but has registered two goals and an assist in his last two games.
Leipzig boast of an incredible record against Die Alte Dame, having lost only once in all their meetings. In the reverse fixture, Hertha suffered at the hands of Werner, who picked up a brace and an assist in a 4-2 win at the Olympiastadion.
Team News & Tactics
Konrad Laimer had to be subbed off just before the half-time mark on the weekend and might have to sit this one out, although RB Leipzig have released no confirmed news on him. Leipzig will also be without the services of Ibrahima Konate, who suffered a hamstring injury in training and is expected to be out for a few weeks at the very least.
Ethan Ampadu will have to continue watching from home due to a back injury. The biggest miss for Leipzig, though, will be Yussuf Poulsen, who is out with an ankle ligament injury. This is the fourth different injury the Dane has suffered this season, and his return is unclear at the moment.
The good news is that Dayot Upamecano returned from suspension last week and registered an hour of playtime under his belt. Julian Nagelsmann will revert to his three-man-backline with Lukas Klostermann, Upamecano and Marcel Halstenberg assuming responsibility in front of the in-form Peter Gulacsi.
Tyler Adams and Nordi Mukiele are both in contention for the right wing-back spot, but the latter is expected to start given the difficulty of the fixture. The left wing-back spot will be occupied by Manchester City loanee Angelino, who has had an impressive start to life in Germany.
The Leipzig manager has a plethora of options in midfield which gives them an unpredictable edge over their opponents. In the absence of first-choice defensive midfielder Laimer, we are expecting the versatile Marcel Sabitizer and Kevin Kampl to take over the reins as the double pivot.
Christopher Nkunku has registered 12 assists this season, the third-highest in the league and is likely to take up the number 10 role. Dani Olmo and Emil Forsberg are the other names that can also start in the same role.
Werner is expected to start alongside Patrik Schick, who has had a stellar season as the third-choice striker. Schick has scored seven goals in 16 appearances, which include only 10 starts. However, Werner could also play as a winger on the left side with Nkunku on the opposite flank.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Gulacsi; Klostermann, Upamecano, Halstenberg; Mukiele, Sabitzer, Kampl, Angelino; Nkunku; Werner, Schick
Hertha Berlin will go into this fixture with a number of their players out, specifically from injuries, including Borussia Dortmund loanee Marius Wolf, who is not travelling with the team due to lack of match fitness.
Defensive duo Karim Rekik and Niklas Stark will not participate against Leipzig either due to knee and groin injuries, respectively. Santiago Ascacibar suffered a foot injury in the build-up to the Berlin derby and will be out this Wednesday as well.
Marvin Plattenhardt and Peter Pekarik are expected to provide width from defence playing on either side of Jordan Torunarigha and Dedryck Boyata. They will make for the back four that will be covering Rune Jarstein, who will hold the fort in goal.
Marko Grujic and Per Ciljan Skjelbred are expected to continue as the double pivot for the third match running. However, Grujic, who has played every minute since the restart could be benched for Arne Maier, who has played just eight games this season.
Bruno Labbadia is expected to line his team up with four men ahead of the central midfielders, with Dodi Lukebakio and Matheus Cunha taking charge of the right and left wings, respectively. Cunha joined Hertha from Leipzig in January and will be keen to show his former employers what he’s capable of.
Between these two, Vladimir Darida will take charge as the central attacking midfielder, playing off of captain Ibisevic. New signing Krzysztof Piatek is also in contention to start this game and could be seen in place of Darida in a 4-4-2 set up, although it is unlikely at the moment.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Jarstein; Pekarik, Boyata, Torunarigha, Plattenhardt; Skjelbred, Grujic; Lukebakio, Darida, Cunha; Ibisevic
- RB Leipzig have won six of the seven Bundesliga meetings with Hertha Berlin, with the visitors’ sole victory coming at the Red Bull Arena in 2017 (2-3).
- Leipzig have picked up all three points in each of their last four matches against Hertha Berlin and have scored 18 goals in the process. They have chalked up 26 goals in total against Hertha, more than against any other team and this match averages a goal every 19 minutes.
- Julian Nagelsmann’s team have scored more goals (68) than they managed across last season in its entirety (63), breaking their club-record 66-goal return of 2016-17.
- Hertha Berlin are unbeaten in the four games in which Matheus Cunha has found the net (W2 D2).
- In their derby win over Union Berlin, Hertha scored three goals or more in the second half of a Bundesliga game for the second game running.
Player to Watch
After ending his eight-game goal drought on Sunday in spectacular fashion, Werner has taken his goal tally to 24, only three off the Polish superstar Robert Lewandowski in the race to win the Torjagerkanone, which has been held by the latter for three of the last five years.
However, the German international has been much more than just a goal-machine under Julian Nagelsmann, who has turned him into a complete forward. Werner now boasts of a wider skill-set, including impeccable anchor play and vision.
He has excelled across various position this campaign playing all across the frontline. The 24-year-old is courted by top clubs across Europe including the likes of Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Chelsea among others and could be on his way out of Leipzig.
RB Leipzig 3-1 Herth Berlin
Leipzig put on an absolute show last week and could have easily had at least three goals more if not for several missed chances by Christopher Nkunku and Timo Werner. Moreover, their backline seemed quite solid after the return of Dayot Upamecano, who will start at the heart of defence this week as well.
However, they will be playing against an inspired Hertha, who have seen an unexpected turn of fortunes under new manager Bruno Labbadia, who was appointed as the head coach amidst the two-month break. The German manager also seems to have sorted out their problems at the back with the help of more aggressive pressing.
That said, we do not expect Hertha to have an easy outing against one of Germany’s strongest clubs. Leipzig will look to capitalise on dropped points after Borussia Dortmund suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich and will not want to give Hertha an opportunity to pull off an upset. That Hard Tackle, thus, predicts a 3-1 win for Nagelsmann’s charges.