Borussia Dortmund will aim to maintain pressure on Bayern Munich when they take on Hertha Berlin at the Olympiastadion on Saturday.

Borussia Dortmund will be looking to wrap up 2021 on a positive note when they take on Hertha Berlin on Saturday. It will be the final game before the Bundesliga goes into a mid-season hiatus of almost three weeks, giving Marco Rose some valuable time to get his ideas across before the Ruckrunde.

Die Schwarzgelben are heading into this game six points behind league leaders Bayern Munich. The gap is significant, but the second-placed team still have a chance of potentially making a comeback during the second half of the campaign, knowing just one slip up could open up the opportunity to bridge the gap to just three points.

In this weekend’s round of fixtures, Bayern are facing a tricky test against VfL Wolfsburg on Friday night. If the German Rekordmeister’s fail to win, the the title race could be left wide open up once again, essentially meaning this is a must-win encounter for Dortmund.

It is a different equation for their opponent this weekend, though. Currently dawdling in 14th place, Hertha Berlin have had a mixed start to their spell under Tayfun Korkut. The ex-VfB Stuttgart trainer began his tenure with a 2-2 draw against his former team, but it was followed by a promising win over Arminia Bielefeld.

In the midweek, though, Hertha suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat at the hands of Mainz, whereas Borussia Dortmund picked up a morale-boosting 3-0 victory over the newly-promoted Greuther Furth. The two sides will try their best to sign off 2021 with three points as they lock horns with each other at the iconic Olympiastadion this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

Hertha Berlin

In addition to the 4-0 defeat, Hertha Berlin lost in-form forward Stevan Jovetic earlier this week after he picked up a calf problem. His participation in this game remains a major doubt while the club has already confirmed the absence of Lukas Klunter and goalkeeper Rune Jarstein. The inspiring midfielder Suat Serdar is not fully fit either and may only start on the bench.

As for the tactical side of things, Tayfun Korkut is more than likely to persist with his 4-4-2 setup, emphasising a narrow shape that could see the two wingers in Marco Richter and Maximilian Mittelstadt almost operate as attacking midfielders.

Their dynamism and creativity in the middle of the park could go a long way in offering the supply for the front two. Jovetic would usually earn a starting place in the side, alongside Ishak Belfodil. But with the ex-Manchester City lacking fitness, Davie Selke could be awarded an opportunity to make an impression under the new coach.

The former Werder Bremen striker remains a major threat for the Borussia Dortmund defence, especially from set pieces. He may also thrive from the attacking services of both Richter and Mittelstadt, although they could be even important in aiding the two central midfielders in Vladimir Darida and Santiago Ascacibar.

Defensively, the onus will be on Niklas Stark and Dedryck Boyata to form a strong central defensive partnership, with additional support from the two full-backs in Peter Pekarik and Marvin Plattenhardt.

Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Schwolow; Pekarik, Boyata, Stark, Plattenhardt; Darida, Ascacibar; Richter, Mittelstadt; Belfodil, Selke

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Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund were gifted with the return of Donyell Malen in midweek. There is optimism over the return of Raphael Guerreiro as well, but Jude Bellingham is not available due to suspension. Mats Hummels and Gregor Kobel also remain doubts after picking up cold in midweek.

It could lead to a serious selection dilemma for coach Marco Rose, who may want to bring back Emre Can at the base of the midfield at the expense of Axel Witsel. The German international, though, is a potential alternative for Hummels in case the veteran misses out due to cold. Otherwise, Hummels is expected to form the central defensive pairing with Dan-Axel Zagadou, as BVB continue to deal with the absence of Manuel Akanji.

Guerreiro is likely to be in contention to start. But the Portuguese international is unlikely to be risked, thus paving the way for Nico Schulz to retain his place at left-back. The same can be said for Thomas Meunier, although the Belgian clearly needs to perform better as we move closer towards the January transfer window.

In midfield, Can is set to be accompanied by Mahmoud Dahoud and Julian Brandt. They are expected to operate as auxiliary number tens alongside Marco Reus during the attacking phase of the game, as they look to offer the creativity for the strike partnership of Erling Haaland and Donyell Malen.

Dortmund have no shortage of alternatives, though, with Rose confirming the availability of Hazard. Marius Wolf and even Giovanni Reyna might be able to get into the teamsheet as well, with the latter recently returning from a long injury layoff.

Probable Lineup (4-1-3-2): Kobel; Meunier, Hummels, Zagadou, Schulz; Can; Brandt, Reus, Dahoud; Haaland, Malen

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Key Stats

  • Stevan Jovetic has plundered three goals in his last three matches, making him the team’s leading scorer this season with five.
  • Kevin-Prince Boateng made 10 Bundesliga appearances during a six-month loan spell at Dortmund in 2008/09.
  • Hertha Berlin have won 11 of their 18 points (61 per cent) this term on home turf.
  • Erling Haaland has the minutes-per-goal ratio in the Bundesliga this season at 62, ahead of Bayer Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick (64). Robert Lewandowski is currently at 76.
  • Borussia Dortmund have won 32 of their 68 Bundesliga meetings with Hertha, including each of the last five. They are unbeaten in their last four league visits to the Olympiastadion.

Player to Watch

Donyell Malen

While Erling Haaland may attract the limelight once again after scoring a brace in the last game, it is Donyell Malen who could become the difference-maker as the Dutchman looks to continue his exquisite run of form.

Indeed, after a difficult start to life in the Bundesliga, Malen has been in splendid form in recent weeks. He has scored five goals in his last six competitive matches, which has been critical to Dortmund’s results. But apart from his productivity, Malen has also showcased much more commitment and concentration in the final third.

It has turned him into a significantly dangerous attacking weapon for Borussia Dortmund. He will look to spill his magic once again in this crucial matchup against Hertha.

Prediction

Hertha Berlin 1-3 Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund have reasons to be pessimistic about their side’s chances against Hertha Berlin. Although Marco Rose’s men are coming on the back of a crucial 3-0 triumph over Greuther Furth, they have lacked creativity in their recent matches, as clubs continue to put pressure on their midfield ball-carriers rather than focusing on wide players.

Hence, the fate of this encounter could depend on the return of Raphael Guerreiro, while Donyell Malen, too, could play a vital role due to his dynamism and trickery out wide. But we are predicting both the players to make their presence felt this weekend and help their team secure a comfortable victory over the capital club.

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