Bayern Munich will be aiming to maintain their healthy lead at the top of the Bundesliga table when they take on Hertha Berlin on Sunday.

After a shocking start to the year that saw them succumb to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayern Munich did well to get back to winning ways last weekend, securing a resounding 4-0 win over 1.FC Koln.

However, the Bavarian juggernauts will be under pressure once again when they lock horns with Hertha Berlin at the Olympiastadion on Sunday. The reigning German champions currently have a healthy six-point lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund, but that deficit could be reduced to just three points, as Die Schwarzgelben face Hoffenheim on Saturday.

It essentially makes this a must-win encounter for Julian Nagelsmann, who has enjoyed a solid start to his managerial spell at Bayern Munich. But things won’t be made any easier by a Hertha Berlin side looking to find their feet under the leadership of new coach Tayfun Korkut.

The former VfB Stuttgart trainer has made a mixed start to his spell at Hertha, overseeing two wins, two losses and two defeats thus far. Their most recent encounter saw them clinch a point against Wolfsburg in a goalless draw. And having secured a victory over Borussia Dortmund in December, Korkut’s men certainly have what it takes to mount an upset that could significantly change the fate of the Bundesliga title race this season.

Here at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at these two sides ahead of this crucial encounter at Olympiastadion this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

Hertha Berlin

Hertha Berlin are missing Rune Jarstein in goal while new signing Fredrik Andre Bjorkan is struggling with a heel injury. They are ruled out for this game, but on a positive note, Stevan Jovetic is set to make his return to the squad for the first time since the 4-0 defeat to Mainz last month.

Jovetic’s presence is a boon to the Hertha Berlin frontline under Tayfun Korkut. And while the former Manchester City striker might not start ahead of Ishak Belfodil and Myziane Maolida owing to fitness, he remains an excellent option on the bench for the home side.

Elsewhere in the attack, Marco Richter and Suat Serdar are set to serve as the two main chance creators in the final third. Serdar, in particular, will be an invaluable asset in Hertha’s midfield due to his versatility to drop back into a deeper role, as well as the ability to carry the ball in half-spaces.

Meanwhile, the Hertha Berlin double-pivot should consist of Vladimir Darida and Santiago Ascacibar. Both of them are midfield workhorses who can make life difficult for the Bayern Munich ball-carriers. Korkut does have Jurgen Ekkelenkamp as an alternative, in case he prefers more attacking thrust from midfield.

As for the defence, Korkut is unlikely to make any notable changes from the side that secured a clean sheet against Wolfsburg. With Bjorkan ruled out, Maximilian Mittelstadt remains a guaranteed starter at left-back. His ability to provide an attacking thrust going forward could prove to be useful in potential counter-attacking situations.

Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Schwolow; Klunter, Boyata, Stark, Mittelstadt; Ascacibar, Darida; Richter, Serdar; Belfodil, Maolida

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Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich were boosted by the return of several star players who had missed the opening Ruckrunde clash against Borussia Monchengladbach. More positive updates await on Sunday, with Dayot Upamecano, Lucas Hernandez, and even Kingsley Coman set to make their return to the team sheet.

There are question marks surrounding the fitness of Upamecano, but the Frenchman is expected to occupy the central defensive role alongside Niklas Sule. Lucas Hernandez, meanwhile, is destined to replace Marcel Sabitzer at left-back, with Alphonso Davies ruled out due to a heart condition.

The return of two additional defenders should finally pave the way for Joshua Kimmich to return in midfield. With Leon Goretzka out injured, Jamal Musiala, Corentin Tolisso and Marc Roca are competing for a spot alongside the German international in the double-pivot.

Musiala is the favourite to start considering Roca is an equally defensive option while Tolisso has no future at the club. Sabitzer is yet to make an impression either, though he remains an option on the bench for Nagelsmann.

As for the attack, with Bayern Munich expected to revert to a 4-2-3-1, Thomas Muller will operate from his preferred number ten role, getting help of Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry on the flanks. The Bayern Munich frontline should be led by none other than Robert Lewandowski, who is looking to continue his excellent goalscoring form, having netted four goals in two matches this year.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Upamecano, Sule, Hernandez; Kimmich, Musiala; Gnabry, Muller, Sane; Lewandowski

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Key Stats

  • Hertha Berlin have lost just one of four matches involving a Stevan Jovetic goal.
  • The Old Lady have won only two of their last 24 Bundesliga meetings with Bayern Munich, losing 18.
  • Tayfun Korkut’s record as a coach against Bayern Munuch reads: W1, D1, L4.
  • Robert Lewandowski has 15 goals in 20 appearances against Hertha, 10 of which have come in his last five.
  • Bayern Munich have scored at least once in a record 66 straight Bundesliga matches.

Player to Watch

Leroy Sane

Embed from Getty Images

Leroy Sane’s return to full fitness will be a boon for Bayern Munich. The German attacker was greatly involved in the 4-0 win over 1.FC Koln last weekend, bagging two assists despite coming on as a substitute around the hour mark. It was perhaps symbolic of an excellent season that has seen the winger involved in 24 goals in all competitions.

On Sunday, Sane will once again play a key role in helping Bayern Munich break the shackles of the Hertha Berlin defence. Despite starting out on the left, his ability to drift inside and take on multiple defenders at once should pave the way for his attacking partners to enjoy additional freedom in the final third.

Tayfun Korkut’s men may also need to remain alert to Sane’s balls in behind the defence for runners like Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry or Robert Lewandowski. In many ways, the former Manchester City winger could be Bayern’s most important player this weekend.

Prediction

Hertha Berlin 0-3 Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich’s solid 4-0 win over Koln was an indicator of their return to form. With the majority of key players back to full fitness, the Bavarians are the undisputed favourites to seal all three points, especially against a Hertha Berlin side that often tends to be defensively vulnerable against the top teams.

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