Bayern Munich take on Hertha Berlin on Friday night with the Bavarians keen on retaining their healthy lead at the top of the Bundesliga table.
The upcoming Matchday 20 in the Bundesliga has a lot to offer as the league table starts to take shape, after what has been an exciting season so far. Absent from midweek’s round of fixtures in the DFB Pokal following a shock early exit at the hands of Holstein Kiel, Bayern Munich kickstart this matchday with a trip away at the capital where they take on Hertha Berlin.
The struggling Hertha are coming on the back of an eventful month that saw the sacking of Bruno Labbadia and Michael Preetz, the arrival of Germany international Sami Khedira and the appointment of former head coach Pal Dardai. The latter kickstarted his reign with a defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt at the end of last month.
The loss saw Hertha remain 15th in the league table, level on points with 16th placed Arminia Bielefeld. And things could get a lot more difficult for the capital club as they play hosts to defending champions Bayern Munich on Friday.
It has been a positive couple of weeks for the Bavarians who have not only regained their place at the top of the Bundesliga table but have also built a solid seven-point lead over second-placed RB Leipzig. They have been winning matches even when they performed well below their standards, truly embodying football’s cliched take on how champions can churn out a victory at every situation.
Nevertheless, Bayern coach Hansi Flick will have to remain cautious against a Hertha side that is currently under new leadership – of one who has proved his quality in the Bundesliga in the past. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will draw down their chances of landing a major blow to the opponent’s route to an eighth successive triumph in the Bundesliga on Friday.
Team News & Tactics
Hertha’s acquisition of Khedira during the final phase of the January transfer window sparked a lot of attention. However, the move made little sense and it remains unclear how the former Real Madrid man will fit into a midfield unit that already boasts quality talents like Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Tousart and Santiago Ascacibar.
All three of them are, in fact, guaranteed starters in the middle third of the pitch for Hertha, Guendouzi operating in a slightly advanced role – ahead of the double-pivot consisting of Tousart and Ascacibar. The on-loan Arsenal midfielder will be tasked with the responsibility of adding more steel to Hertha’s second line of press, with wide midfielders in Dodi Lukebakio and Matheus Cunha hoping to provide the creativity.
Cunha, though, is someone who likes to operate centrally. Therefore, it won’t be surprising to see the Brazilian joining Krzysztof Piatek through the middle, with the formation shifting towards a typical 4-4-2. It could see Guendouzi move a little out wide, although Dardai does have Vladimir Darida as an option.
The Czech international is even a better fit than Guendouzi in that number eight role, as he effortlessly shifts out wide and has a lot of energy to keep pressing throughout the ninety minutes.
Meanwhile, in defence, Alexander Schwolow may once again have to settle on the bench under Dardai, who quite obviously favours Rune Jarstein in goal. There could be one change though, with youngster Luca Netz likely to be replaced by Maximilian Mittelstadt at left-back.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Jarstein; Klunter, Torunarigha, Stark, Mittelstadt; Ascacibar, Tousart; Lukebakio, Guendouzi, Cunha; Piatek
Hansi Flick should continue to chop and change his side, especially in the defensive unit. Benjamin Pavard, for one, could make way for Niklas Sule at right-back. However, with Bayern set to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup in a few days time, we could see Lucas Hernandez settling for a place on the bench, with Alphonso Davies starting on the opposite flank.
In midfield, Bayern Munich will once again have to deal with the absence of Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez after both tested positive for Covid-19. It should pave the way for new signing Marc Roca to renew his partnership with Joshua Kimmich in the double-pivot, with the Spaniard hoping for an impressive display that could help him gain a more prominent role in the side.
Roca is a more defensive player, though, so his presence in midfield should give Kimmich the license to move forward. The German international has shown a lot of quality as well, particularly with his passing and proficiency from set-pieces.
Moving forward, Flick should field his strongest possible attacking lineup against Hertha Berlin, in an attempt to rest all of these players in midweek’s Club World Cup fixture. So we might once again see Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman operate out wide, forming Bayern’s creative trifecta alongside Thomas Muller.
And finally, the Bavarian attack should be led by none other than Robert Lewandowski. The Polish international is well on his way to beating Gerd Muller’s legendary record of scoring 40 goals in a league campaign, having already netted 24 this term. He will be looking for one or two goals on Friday against the lowly Hertha side.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Sule, Boateng, Alaba, Davies; Kimmich, Roca; Gnabry, Muller, Coman; Lewandowski
- Hertha Berlin have taken points in five of their last eight Bundesliga meetings with Bayern Munich (W1, D4). Pal Dardai was in charge of four of them.
- Robert Lewandowski has contributed with 24 goals and six assists in the aforementioned eight games.
- Matheus Cunha is Hertha’s six-goal top scorer this term, followed by Krzysztof Piatek on five. Lukebakio has three.
- Bayern Munich have scored 57 goals after 19 rounds of fixtures, equalling Werder Bremen’s league record for team goals at this juncture, set in 1985/86.
- Dodi Lukebakio is set to face his favourite opponent: he has scored five times in as many games against the record champions.
Player to Watch
With Goretzka and Martinez out, the onus will be on Joshua Kimmich once again to lead the Bayern Munich midfield on Friday. His leadership, work-ethic and aggression have been the hallmark of Bayern Munich’s progress in recent years, with the German international cementing in place as one of the world’s finest in his position.
In recent weeks, however, Kimmich is further improving his creative play. As mentioned earlier, his crosses from set-pieces have been quite deadly. In fact, the player has notched up an impressive ten assists this season despite featuring in only 13 matches. His corners and free-kicks could thus pose problems to the Hertha defence as well.
Dardai’s men also need to be careful of the midfielder’s ability to thread long passes in behind the backline and cannot afford to take risks. It will be interesting to see how Kimmich himself fares against the likes of Matteo Guendouzi and Santiago Ascacibar.
Hertha Berlin 1-2 Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich may face difficulties breaking the lines of the Hertha press, especially under someone like Pal Dardai. We also expect them to concede an early goal once again, up against a strikeforce that features stars like Matheus Cunha, Krzysztof Piatek and Dodi Lukebakio. However, the Bavarians do have enough firepower to see this through and extend their lead at the top of the table.