Taiwo Awoniyi (r.) will lead the line for Union Berlin against city rivals Hertha on Matchday 29. - © DFL/Getty Images/Boris Streubel
Taiwo Awoniyi (r.) will lead the line for Union Berlin against city rivals Hertha on Matchday 29. - © DFL/Getty Images/Boris Streubel
bundesliga

Hertha Berlin vs. Union Berlin: How do they stack up?

whatsappmailcopy-link

Awoniyi's on fire, but will Hertha's defence be terrified? bundesliga.com runs the rule over Union and their capital city rivals, ahead of the sixth Berlin derby of the Bundesliga era...

The season so far

Union's third top-flight campaign is living up to high standards they set in their previous two seasons at German football's top table, and they are out to prove that qualifying for Europe last term was anything but a fluke. Thanks to Taiwo Awoniyi, they picked up a further three points against Cologne on Matchday 28 to end a three-game run without victory and return to the hunt for European football next season, while they go into the weekend just three points off the top six. Urs Fischer's men will be buoyed by two wins from two over their city rivals already this season. They not only swept Hertha aside 2-0 thanks to goals from Awoniyi and captain Christopher Trimmel on Matchday 12, but also claimed a 3-2 win at the Olympiastation in the last-16 of the DFB Cup.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, goal difference currently has Hertha stuck inside the bottom two. The 3-0 win over Hoffenheim on Felix Magath's debut in the dugout is already a distant memory, after a 2-1 loss at Bayer Leverkusen brought them back down to earth with a bump. It has been a tricky campaign for the Old Lady, with the alarm bells already ringing following a three-match losing start to the new season. Thirteen points from a possible 24 after that steadied the ship, but that first derby defeat of the season and a 1-1 draw with Augsburg cost Pal Dardai his job. Tayfun Korkut took over and picked up two wins and a draw from his first four games in charge, including a 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund, but a nine-game winless run saw him relieved of his duties and Magath installed to guide a team with the second leakiest defence in the league, with 62 conceded, through to the end of the campaign.

Key men

Union's impressive season owes much to the goals of Awoniyi. The former Liverpool and Mainz striker has produced a team-leading 12 Bundesliga strikes across 25 games to become the club's new record goalscorer in the Bundesliga, with 17, and he is ably assisted by a diverse supporting cast

Sheraldo Becker has developed a telepathic understanding with the Nigerian, while summer signings Kevin Behrens, Genki Haraguchi and Andreas Voglsammer have had a direct hand in 11 goals between them. Even the loss of midfield workhorse Robert Andrich to Leverkusen has been compensated for with the arrival of Rani Khedira, Union's numero uno for challenges won. And for Fantasy Managers out there, Niko Gießelmann has served up a very handy three goals and five assists from left-back.

Watch: Taiwo Awoniyi not resting on laurels after becoming Union's record scorer

Hertha's own recruitment drive promised much, but the results have been mixed. Stevan Jovetic marked his Bundesliga debut by becoming the second player in history to score a league goal in Germany, England, Spain, Italy and France, but injuries have limited him to just 16 appearances. The Montenegrin's return in those games has been excellent, though, with six goals from a total of 997 minutes - one every 166 - and he is back from his latest injury just in time for the derby.

Marco Richter (five goals, one assist) is second on Hertha's scoring charts, ahead of Ishak Belfodil and young midfielder Jürgen Ekkelenkamp, who both have three. Fellow new face Suat Serdar is one of three Hertha players on two league goals for the campaign, though both his strikes fell against promoted Bochum on Matchday 4. Myziane Maolida opened his account in that game, but has failed to score in 12 games since, underlining one of Hertha's major problems: scoring goals. And while hometown hero Kevin-Prince Boateng's role has been more bit-part than expected, a city derby could be exactly what's needed to light the blue-and-white touch paper.

Kevin-Prince Boateng had made just four starts since returning to Hertha for one final career hurrah. - Anke Waelischmiller/Sven Simon via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Sven Simon

The coaches and their systems

The Union tactician is a proponent of a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Gießelmann and Christopher Trimmel or, as an alternative, Julian Ryerson in the wing-back roles. Khedira and Grischa Prömel usually protect a backline comprising Dominique Heintz, Timo Baumgartl, Robin Knoche and goalkeeper Andreas Luthe - though it'll be Frederik Ronnow as the last line of defence in the derby. Awoniyi spearheads the attack with support from Becker.

Magath has gone 4-1-4-1 for his two games in charge. In practice, that means experienced heads Peter Pekarik and Marvin Plattenhardt flanking captain Dedryck Boyata and Marc-Oliver Kempf. Niklas Stark has sat in the midfield pivot role, but with an ankle injury ruling him out, Santiago Ascacibar should slip back into that No.6 position. Lucas Tousart joins Vladimir Darida in the middle of the park, while Richter and Maximilian Mittelstädt are the preferred wide men. Davie Selke and Ishak Belfodil will vie with Jovetic for the lone striker's job. Injuries between the posts mean Dortmund-bound rookie Marcel Lotka will start in goal.

Watch: Union beat Hertha 2-0 in reverse fixture

History

Hertha can at least count on a good record at home to Union, triumphing twice on home soil in the Bundesliga, even if the Old Lady were beaten by their neighbours 3-2 in the DFB Cup earlier this season. On the other hand, they are winless in three across town, losing 1-0 in 2019/20, drawing 1-1 last term and losing 2-0 there this season, so will be glad to have home advantage on this occasion. In fact, were it not for their five wins at the OIympiastadion, Hertha's situation would be even more precarious right now. And to add an extra pinch of spice to proceedings, Hertha have never finished above Union in the Bundesliga.

Watch: Berlin derby history

Will Hertha make all the right moves to redress the balance on Matchday 29, or will tough-nut-to-crack Union put further points between the two capital clubs? bundesliga.com is the place to find out...