15:30 (CEST), Saturday 19th August, Olympiastadion (Berlin, Germany)
Europa League club Hertha Berlin face an interesting season and face an interesting challenge against Bundesliga returnees Stuttgart. Hannes Wolf’s side has brought in multiple players with past Bundesliga experience with Dennis Aogo, Holger Badstuber and Ron-Robert Zieler as they look to keep the Swabians from relegation this season.
Hertha, on the other hand, have looked to add depth to their increased workload with all parts of the park covered. Davie Selke and Mathew Leckie will provide additional options going forward whilst Karim Rekik from Marseille is seen as the replacement for the departed John Anthony Brooks. A fascinating contest it will be, can Stuttgart shock a Hertha side who were strong at home last season?
Last Time Out
Hansa Rostock 0-2 Hertha Berlin (DFB Pokal)
Hertha made the long journey to Rostock looking to break their away-day demons and start their domestic campaign in a positive light. Rostock proved to be a tough opponent to break down and it wouldn’t be until the final minutes that the Bundesliga club would break down their 3. Liga Opponents.
Mitchell Weiser was able to take his chance on 87 minutes with an excellent volley beating a diving Janis Blaswich. Hertha would finish Rostock off in stoppage time as Mathew Leckie teed up Berlin captain Vedad Ibišević with the easiest of tap ins to send Pál Dárdai’s men into the next round.
Energie Cottbus 2-2 (3-4) Stuttgart (DFB Pokal)
Stuttgart needed penalties to see off a resilient Energie Cottbus. It was the hosts who took a two goal cushion into the half time break thanks to goals from Fabio Viteritti on 5 minutes and an excellent free kick from Maximilian Zimmer. The visitors who were flat in the first half would come out much improved side after the break. Josip Brekalo with a marauding run before finishing well into the bottom corner.
Stuttgart would level the scores through fortunate circumstances when Simon Terodde’s pass was deflected in off the unassuming Cottbus defender José-Junior Matuwila. The sides couldn’t be separated and penalties were required. Stuttgart were cool under pressure whilst it was too hot in the kitchen for Benjamin Förster who missed the critical kick for Cottbus as Stuttgart progressed.
Hertha Berlin Lineup
Pál Dárdai will be hoping his side can continue to build momentum after their cup win on Monday night. Dárdai had his side playing a 4-4-2 formation but on Saturday against Stuttgart, we shall Hertha return to a more customary 4-2-3-1. Alexander Esswein will play behind Vedad Ibišević. Barring any injuries at training, Hertha will produce the same starting XI at Rostock.
After escaping Cottbus with a win on penalties, Hannes Wolf will expect more from his side as they make the journey to the capital. Injuries are a major factor with Stuttgart on the defensive end and the club still doesn’t have a recognised right back.
Benjamin Pavard who played most of the last season at right back will apply his trade there whilst Timo Baumgartl re-joins Marcin Kaminski in central defence. New signing Orel Mangala from Anderlecht will make his Bundesliga start whilst we will get our first good look at on loan Arsenal winger Takuma Asano.
Key Battle: Vladimír Darida vs Christian Gentner
A midfield battle will partake at the Olympiastadion between Hertha Berlin’s Vladimír Darida and Stuttgart captain Christian Gentner. Darida was mega for Hertha Berlin last season and was a major reason as to why Pál Dárdai’s side finished 5th and qualified for this seasons Europa League. The midfielder can play in a variety of roles whether it’s playing behind Vedad Ibišević or playing as a holding midfielder, Darida gives Dárdai plenty of options.
Gentner is similar in that regard but applies his trade deep in midfield. The current captain of Stuttgart is an intelligent player, knows how to control the tempo and is exactly the kind of midfielder Stuttgart needs, right in the thick of it. Gentner is also known for making forays into enemy territory which will become useful against a strong side like Hertha. We look for Darida or Gentner to be the figureheads for their sides.
From the pre-season outings and DFB Pokal win at Rostock, it’s fair to say that Berlin have recruited well during the transfer window. Mathew Leckie and Karim Rekik look ready made fixtures for Pál Dárdai’s side whilst Davie Selke and Valentino Lazaro are currently injured but will be looking to make their mark when they return. It’s important that new players are able to integrate with their new teammates and so far it’s all positives for Hertha.
Off to a flyer?
After being relegated and then winning the 2. Bundesliga the following season, Stuttgart will be looking to hit the ground running in season 2017/18. Stuttgart have some interesting players like Simon Terodde and Josip Brekalo, as well as World Cup, winning keeper Ron-Robert Zieler to help the Swabians avoid the drop this season. Hannes Wolf will understand the importance of starting positively in the capital and taking points on their travels will be key.
Prediction: Hertha Berlin 2-0 Stuttgart
It will be interesting to see how Stuttgart reasserts themselves back into the top flight but they would’ve wished for an easier fixture then away in the Capital. Hertha were superb at home and amongst the leaders in the league and, for me, they will be hard to beat. From top-to-bottom Berlin have Stuttgart covered and it will be hard to see the Swabians getting anything from this game as Hertha take all three points.
Can Stuttgart escape the capital with a point? Let us know in the comments section below.
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