Hertha Berlin know a point will be enough to secure Europa League football next season has they host a Bayer Leverkusen side who have only collected eight points in their last nine encounters. Last time out Bayer Leverkusen secured a draw in the Rhineland Derby against Köln whilst Hertha Berlin broke a streak of nine games without a win on the road as the defeated already relegated Darmstadt. It’s a crucial game for Hertha, points of any variety will keep them in the top six and Berlin in Europe next season whilst for Bayer Leverkusen they will be hoping to put an end to an extremely poor season with victory in the capital.
LAST TIME OUT
Darmstadt 0-2 Hertha Berlin
Hertha Berlin made the journey to Darmstadt knowing a defeat would put their Europa League destiny out of their hands. Pál Dárdai’s side started the better of the two sides as Hertha would take the lead inside a quarter of an hour, Vladimír Darida’s picture perfect cross was met by Salomon Kalou who headed home his first goal in 694 minutes. It was the Ivorian’s seventh goal of the campaign. On 28 minutes it was 2-0 to Hertha Berlin when Marvin Plattenhardt’s curling free-kick was met at the back post by 19-year-old defender Jordan Torunarigha for his first ever Bundesliga goal. Hertha continued to dominate the contest and nearly caught out Darmstadt keeper Daniel Heuer Fernandes when on loan midfielder Allan tried his luck from inside his own half, the shot just wide of the target. Darmstadt should’ve brought a goal back when Marcel Heller’s cross was beautifully volleyed by Felix Platte, however his strike missed the mark. A crucial win for Hertha as they control their fate going into the final matchday.
Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Köln
Bayer Leverkusen looked to secure a big scalp as they looked to end a dismal season positively. Like their season, Leverkusen started poorly and conceded on 14 minutes, Simon Zoller picking out Milos Jojić whose shot was deflected off Tin Jedvaj and into Bernd Leno’s goal. Leverkusen began to pressure an overwhelmed Köln defence but the efforts on goal failed to test Timo Horn. Half-time arrived and Leverkusen would’ve felt hard done by from the score line. Things would get worse for Leverkusen on 50 minutes as Lukas Klünter strolled through a shaky defence before scoring past Leno who should’ve done better. 2-0 and the game slipping away prompted Leverkusen to kick into gear and on 60 minutes they brought a goal back. Julian Brandt’s accurate cross was met by a diving Stefan Kießling for his third goal of the season. Buoyed by the goal Leverkusen then levelled the scores with 20 minutes to go in a spirited comeback, Charles Aránguiz finding Joel Pohjanpalo to head home his fifth of the season. It the Finnish striker’s first goal since matchday two. Leverkusen nearly stole all three points on 87 minutes when substitute Leon Bailey’s low driven shot rattled the far post. The draw means Bayer Leverkusen are safe for another season in the top flight.
Hertha Berlin Lineup
Hertha are set to be greeted with the return of centre back pairing Sebastian Langkamp and John Anthony Brooks who missed the clash with Darmstadt due to suspensions. Dárdái used a 4-4-2 system with Vedad Ibišević and Salomon Kalou up top and it work well as it helped Berlin get the jump. I do expect Hertha to revert to the 4-2-3-1 formation which will see Kalou play behind Ibišević with Genki Haraguchi and Alexander Esswein providing the width. I expect two changes in defence from the side that took all three points in Darmstadt.
Bayer Leverkusen Lineup
For the clash with Berlin, we could see a start for Joel Pohjanpalo who scored off the bench last time out. He could start alongside Stefan Kießling with the out of favour Javier Hernández dropping to the bench. Leon Bailey could get a start, but I do believe Kai Havertz has done enough to keep his spot in the starting lineup. Ömer Toprak is set to return after an ankle injury and I believe he will start as he plays his last game for Leverkusen before his move to Borussia Dortmund in the summer. At least one change to the side that drew in week 33.
Both Hertha Berlin and Bayer Leverkusen possess two of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga in Rune Jarstein and Bernd Leno. However, recently its been a struggle for both shot stoppers who are prone to mistakes at key moments which lead to goals. This season, Rune Jarstein has made three errors with two coming in the last three weeks, all of the errors made by the Norwegian international have led to goals. Bernd Leno on the other hand has made four errors this season with three of those leading to goals. Leno has also botched multiple saves this season. The pressure is on Jarstein in particular as a poor game could see his side miss out on the Europa League.
90 minutes of good football
It sounds simple though its anything but. For Hertha Berlin they will need to be flawless if they want to be in the Europa League next season whilst Bayer Leverkusen will be glad to see the season end. There is more on the line for Hertha Berlin, a defeat and wins to Köln and Freiburg will see them finish seventh and out of automatic qualification for the Europa League. It’s important to play well and secure something that Hertha have deserved in the grand scheme of things, so the fans of Berlin will be rallying behind their troops
PREDICTION: Hertha Berlin 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
With both sides looking to end the season well, hosts Hertha Berlin have the most to lose in the contest and I expect them to be the better of the two sides. Leverkusen have had an awful season by their standards and they will be looking to come away with something. With Berlin wanting the game more I expect a relatively dominant performance as Hertha Berlin see themselves qualify for the Europa League for the first time since 2010/11 campaign.
Will Hertha Berlin confirm their place in the Europa League next season? Let us know in the comments section below.