Berlin - Had Hertha Berlin and VfB Stuttgart met on Matchday 4, many would have had Friday evening's game at the Olympiastadion (kick-off 20:30 CEST) down as a home banker.
Jos Luhukay's side had picked up two wins and a draw from their opening three Bundesliga matches, while Stuttgart had failed to register a single point. However, after die Schwaben romped to victory over 1899 Hoffenheim in Thomas Schneider's first league match in charge of the club, and following Hertha's first defeat of the season away to VfL Wolfsburg, the outcome of this contest seems a little less straightforward.
Jos Luhukay’s side are determined to get back to winning ways following that defeat at the Volkswagen Arena, but the Hertha coach knows that won’t be an easy task against a revitalised Stuttgart. “With their new coach, they played with a lot more self-belief in their last home game,” he said. “It was an impressive performance and an impressive result.”
The Alte Dame boast a good home record against Stuttgart, having won 17 and lost only four of their 28 meetings on home soil, and that record gives them confidence. “We want to win, but it will be difficult,” admitted Luhukay. "Stuttgart are organised, very good on the ball and have very quick attacking players who can hurt us. We have to be disciplined over 90 minutes and we want to get back to winning ways after the Wolfsburg game. That is our motivation for this game.”
Van den Bergh and Langkamp may feature
Johannes van den Bergh is set to return to the squad after missing the last three matches through injury. It remains to be seen, however, whether Luhukay will opt for him or Nico Schulz in the left-back position. Sebastian Langkamp is also close to a return to fitness following a muscle injury, but Luhukay is yet to decide whether or not to include the 29-year-old in his squad.
Meanwhile, the visitors are without Mohammed Abdellaoue, who is suffering from a cold, while Georg Niedermeier is still unavailable. Moritz Leitner, who suffered a knock while on international duty for Germany’s Under-21s, has recovered in time for Friday's encounter, while Ibrahima Traore returns from suspension after his sending off against FC Augsburg on Matchday 3.
"Still work to be done"
Despite their resounding 6-2 win over Hoffenheim on Matchday 4, which included an impressive hat-trick by in-form Vedad Ibisevic, Schneider says the victory is no reason to get carried away. “There were still things I saw during this game that we have to work on in order to become more successful," he said. “First and foremost, it’s important that we work hard off the ball – better than we did against Hoffenheim. Hertha’s build-up play is very good and they work very hard.”
Although his side don’t have the best of records in Berlin, Schneider himself has more positive memories of the capital. “I won the cup there as a player and I was there twice with the Stuttgart Under-17s in the final of the German Championship, which we managed to win once." If they are to get anything from Saturday’s match, however, Schneider’s side will have to become the first team to beat Hertha at the Olympiastadion since 1. FC Kaiserslautern during the 2012/13 season.
Hertha: Kraft - Pekarik, Langkamp, Brooks, van den Bergh - Lustenberger, Hosogai - Allagui, Ronny, Ben-Hatira - Ramos
Stuttgart: Ulreich - Schwaab, Haggui, Rüdiger, Boka - Gentner, Kvist - Leitner, Traore - Maxim, Ibisevic