Berlin - Points towards a coveted berth in next season's UEFA Europa League are up for grabs when Hertha Berlin play host to VfL Wolfsburg at the Olympiastadion in the capital on Sunday (kick off 17:30 CET).
Ramos on fire for Hertha
The game pits the eighth-placed hosts against the side two places two and points above them in the standings and, having begun 2014 with successive defeats, both teams go into the game looking to follow up on their first win of the year.
Hertha's victory came at troubled Hamburger SV and this time around, head coach Jos Luhukay is preparing for a “very tough” encounter against opponents he sees as “well on the way to getting back in the mix at the very top of the Bundesliga”. Freshly promoted themselves, the home side are not setting their own bar quite so high just yet but, in accordance with the tried-and-tested one-game-at-a-time strategy, they are certainly raring to go against one of their direct rivals.
“We're at home, we've got the fans behind us and obviously we're going to be chasing the three points,” said Tolga Cigerci. The midfielder – himself new in Berlin this season on an initial loan deal from Wolfsburg – is likely to have a key role to play alongside Hajime Hosogai in stemming the attacking threat of his technical employers. For their part, Hertha have one of the most potent strikers in the Bundesliga at their disposal in Adrian Ramos and the Colombian international will be aiming to unsettle the Wolves on Sunday, just as he has so many other defences this season.
Perfect week for the Wolves?
Wolfsburg, having set up a DFB Cup semi-final meeting with Dortmund by in midweek, look to be right back in the winning groove after coming unstuck against Hannover 96 and again at Schalke on Matchday 19. They got off the mark in the Bundesliga in emphatic fashion against Mainz last weekend and “three points are the target” once again in Berlin, head coach Dieter Hecking stressed at the pre-match press conference.
Against a host outfit who are “having a fine season and are very unified as a team”, Hecking knows his charges will likely have to pull something special out of the bag. And that is just what he expects of them, as “when I look into their eyes I can see they're just as hungry as I am to make it three wins out of three this week”. Timm Klose is set to return in the centre of defence in place of the suspended Naldo, while otherwise, apart from still-sidelined duo Vierinha and Jan Polak, the coach has a full-strength squad at his disposal.
Hertha: Kraft - M. Ndjeng, S. Langkamp, Kobiashvili, Pekarik - Hosogai, Cigerci - Allagui, Skjelbred, J. van den Bergh - Ramos
Wolfsburg: Benaglio - Träsch, Klose, Knoche, Rodriguez - Luiz Gustavo, Medojevic - Arnold, De Bruyne, Perisic - Dost