If Hertha BSC fans are feeling spring fever these days, it’s not because the temperatures are still unusually mild for the time of year. It’s more because the situation at Hertha is strikingly reminiscent of the situation in spring: like back in May – even if the memory is a rather unpleasant one.
This Tuesday (8.30 p.m. / Sky) Hertha will play at VfB Stuttgart. It is the duel of the table fifteenth from Berlin against the sixteenth. The constellation was exactly the same before the last matchday of the previous season, when Hertha and VfB fought a long-distance duel to stay up in the league. The outcome is known.
Because the Berliners lost in Dortmund, the Stuttgarters jumped to 15th place with a goal by Wataru Endo in injury time against 1. FC Köln and thus secured their place in the Bundesliga. Hertha, on the other hand, first had to take the detour via relegation.
History could repeat itself this Tuesday. Should VfB win, he would overtake Hertha and rush the Berliners to the relegation place. That wouldn’t be dramatic at the moment, but shortly before the end of the first half of the series it would be more than just a snapshot.
“Of course you look at the table,” says Hertha’s coach Sandro Schwarz. “We already know what the table is like, but we mustn’t allow ourselves to be distracted by it.”
His team got eleven points from the first 13 games. Extrapolated over the entire season, it should be difficult with this cut to stay in the league. Only in the 2009/10 season, which ended in relegation, did Hertha do even worse (five points); and even a year ago the situation was not so dramatic. After the 13th matchday, Hertha finished 14th with 14 points. Nevertheless, coach Pal Dardai had to vacate his place afterwards.
His successor Sandro Schwarz currently has nothing to fear in this regard. He has only two wins from 14 competitive games, but beyond the results there is definitely progress to be seen, which can be attributed to the work of the new coach.
The plan is recognizable, the team seems stable, which can be seen not least from the number of goals conceded: 20 so far. A year ago it was 33. The goal difference was minus 16, currently it’s minus 4.
The atmosphere in and around the team is much better than a year ago. “Everyone can see that we are a different Hertha,” says striker Dodi Lukebakio. Even from defeats like the one against Bayern on Saturday, the Berliners suck confidence, because the team didn’t collapse after the Munich team scored 3-0, but remained resistant.
Hertha made it 2-3 before the break and had a chance of at least one point until the end. “Not many teams can do that,” said Kevin-Prince Boateng. “We know very well that this will turn at some point, and then the series will come.”
Such statements are not entirely new at Hertha. However, the team should not rely too much on the fact that the desired results will eventually come about by themselves. “We need points,” says Dodi Lukebakio. “We can’t say every game: We didn’t have any points, but we had a good mentality.”
After the narrow defeat against Bayern, coach Schwarz warned his players not to “stand there with the knowledge that everything was fine”. Looking back at the game, he made it clear “that we definitely have to get better in certain areas. We are aware of the responsibility.”
Hertha BSC dropped too many points
The game against Bayern wasn’t the first after which Hertha had the feeling that there could have been more. “That happened to us too often in some games,” said Schwarz.
Nevertheless, the team does not quarrel with fate. “First and foremost, we’re mad at ourselves. That’s a good thing.” Hertha’s coach therefore demands “even more consistency, even more determination, even more calm in the last third” from his team.
After all, it’s also about a conciliatory end to a complicated year. There are still two games to go before the Bundesliga takes an extended winter break.
In Stuttgart and on Saturday at home against 1. FC Köln, the chances of success for the Berliners are significantly higher than recently against the all-powerful Bayern. “I’m sure we’ll be rewarded,” says Dodi Lukebakio. “But when, no one knows.”
In such situations, Pal Dardai liked to talk about must-play games because they are games that you just have to win. “We don’t have to do anything,” replies Kevin-Prince Boateng. “We want. That’s the most important. If we have in mind that we have to, then there is only unnecessary pressure.”