Berlin - Hertha Berlin play host to Borussia Mönchengladbach in Saturday's late game (kick-off 18:30 CEST), a particularly intriguing contest on several counts.
Fraternal reunion - maybe
Visitors Gladbach go into it riding high in the standings, in fourth place. Hertha are only a point behind them however and a win in this one would, barring an unlikely victory for Hannover at Dortmund, propel last season's Bundesliga 2 champions into the top four themselves.
Given the sides' current proximity in the table, home coach Jos Luhukay anticipates a "battle of equals. We won't be able to go full-throttle from start to finish, we'll need to be patient at times...[..]... and attack decisively when the opportunity arises." Whether will have a starting role in that attack remains to be seen, and therein lies another of the game's tales-within-a-tale. With his elder brother Raffael fresh on the books at Mönchengladbach, the Bundesliga could be in for its first fraternal Brazilian head-to-head.
However, while Raffael has been a regular starter under Lucien Favre - who signed the attacking midfielder for the third time in his career over the summer - Ronny, despite being Hertha's creative hub as well as the division's joint-top scorer in their successful promotion drive last season, has only played three times from the off in the current campaign. That said, he did come on as a sub in each of the other five games and, with three goals in the bag already, has clearly not lost his scoring touch either.
Gladbach out to improve away record
Returning to the bigger picture, the Foals have shown the Bundesliga two different faces so far this season. At home they boast an unblemished record of four wins out of four; in the same number of games on the road, they have picked up just a single point. That's not an issue though for Favre, who pointed out that, "We've played pretty well so far in our away games. We could have taken something from all of them but unfortunately we haven't quite done enough, in part due to conceding a few unnecessary goals."
The Swiss tactician is no stranger to the capital's Olympiastadion, having himself spent two-and-half largely successful years in charge of Hertha - just as Luhukay guided Gladbach back up to the Bundesliga in 2007/08, only to part company with the club after a misfiring start to the follow-up campaign. All of which is of course old news now for both coaches. "Going back's not as strange as it was a couple of years ago," said Favre, who is "not surprised" by his former club's good start to season: "They're very well organised, very hard-running and extremely dangerous when they win possession." A battle of equals, then, in that sense as well.
Hertha: Kraft - Pekarik, Lustenberger, S. Langkamp, J. van den Bergh - Hosogai, Skjelbred - Allagui, Ben-Hatira, N. Schulz - Ramos
Mönchengladbach: ter Stegen - Jantschke, Stranzl, Brouwers, Wendt - Kramer, G. Xhaka - Herrmann, Arango - Raffael, M. Kruse