Eintracht Braunschweig finished nine points behind Hertha Berlin in the second tier last term as both made the cut for the big league, but the gap has grown to 11 points after 14 games of this season and Hertha coach Jos Luhukay believes that makes his side favourites against the cellar dwellers from Lower Saxony.
"We're seventh, Braunschweig are bottom and that's something which has got to be reflected on the field," the Dutchman said. "It's not going to be easy, but we're ready for it."
Hertha midfielder also looks ready to prove himself after several weeks on the Berlin bench. The Brazilian has fond memories of facing Braunschweig having scored twice in a 3-0 win which effectively secured Hertha the Bundesliga 2 title in April, and he is set for a place in the starting XI on Sunday. "Every player is an alternative," said Luhukay, who recently singled Ronny out as a key member of his side.
"We want to create more chances and score more goals," continued Luhukay, who fielded Ronny alongside in training on Friday, saying afterwards that he "doesn't practice something in training if there is not an idea behind it". The Brazilian, who has scored three times this season, last started a game on Matchday 7 against 1. FSV Mainz 05 and has been used only as a substitute since.
That haul would make him top scorer were he to play for Braunschweig, currently the league's lowest scorers with just eight strikes this season. Remedying that statistic is one thing coach Torsten Lieberknecht is keen on doing, although he expects more battle than beauty against Berlin: "I think it's going to be a stormy encounter," he said. "I'm not expecting it to be a pretty game with either side gifting it to the opposition."
After going down 2-0 to Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern München last weekend, Lieberknecht is demanding more composure from his side. "We need to be more relaxed on the ball than in the first half against Bayern if we want to succeed," he said. A similar performance to the one a year ago would not go amiss. "We had Hertha on the ropes back then, but we conceded a late equaliser due to a lack of attention."
The Braunschweig boss is without Marco Caligiuri and Ken Reichel, who have both been ruled out for the rest of 2013. "It's a bitter situation for the players and of course also for us," Lieberknecht said. "It forces us to improvise again, but that's not causing me any sleepless nights." He will sleep even easier, though, if his side can move off the foot of the table with a win at the Eintracht Stadion on Sunday.
Braunschweig: Davari - Elabdellaoui, Bicakcic, Dogan, Perthel - Kratz, Vrancic, Theuerkauf - Bellarabi, Boland, Kumbela
Hertha: Kraft - Pekarik, Lustenberger, Brooks, Van den Bergh - Hosogai, Cigerci - Ndjeng, Skjelbred, Ben-Hatira - Ramos