Berlin - Matchday 23's action begins in the capital where high-flying Hertha Berlin welcome strugglers SC Freiburg to the Olympiastadion on Friday evening (kick-off 19.30 GMT/20.30 CET).
Hertha's two faces
The hosts are looking to bounce back from successive home defeats and build on last week's smash-and-grab win at VfB Stuttgart, in order to keep pace with the European places. Freiburg have altogether different concerns, however. Three points would take them into 15th place above Stuttgart and Hamburger SV, albeit temporarily perhaps.
After 22 games, Jos Luhukay’s men already have ten wins to their name - including last week’s late show at the Mercedes-Benz Arena - and are just one point off the UEFA Europa League places. That said, consistency has been an issue for the Old Lady in the current campaign. They have lost five from 11 on home soil, but conversely have the third-best away record in the division with 18 points from a possible 33. Under the floodlights, against a side struggling in the table, Jos Luhukay and his team are now looking to give the crowd the perfect start to the weekend.
“In our last few home games we’ve often been the better team in games, but we haven’t had that cutting edge to take our chances. And away from home we’ve made the most of much fewer opportunities,” analysed the Dutch coach in his pre-match press conference. “This week we’ll be playing an aggressive, energetic side that also have some technically gifted players. This has the potential to be a very interesting match, but obviously we want to make our home record that little bit better by winning.”
Streich: ‘Players panicked’
His opposite number Christian Streich takes a group of players north that he believed were afflicted by nerves in last week’s costly home defeat to FC Augsburg. “Once we went ahead in the game the players looked like they had something to lose and then panic set in.” It had severe consequences for the Black Forest club, who contrived to concede three goals in the final 12 minutes, condemning them to their seventh home defeat in 11 games.
Taking points away at the side currently seventh in the table will be no easy task, but Streich maintained his side have a chance of taking something from the game if they keep their cool, unlike last week. “I want my players to want the ball and to play football. The important thing is for us to stay calm and disciplined, regardless of whether we’re winning or losing.”
Ramos the dangerman
He then went on to single out the player his defence will likely have to keep the closest eye on, Colombian striker Adrian Ramos. The 28-year-old boasts 14 goals in 22 appearances this season, as well as five assists. “He allows them to play directly, either to feet or in the air. But not only that, they’re very good on the break," continued the 48-year-old.
Freiburg's day could be made easier if Ramos fails to recover from the knock he suffered at Stuttgart last week, and with Sandro Wagner suspended, Hertha may have to use Sami Allagui in the striker’s position, a move which may lead to a recall for Brazilian attacker Ronny. Streich was taking nothing for granted though: “We’re assuming Ramos will play.”
Hertha: Kraft - Pekarik, S. Langkamp, Kobiashvili, J. van den Bergh - Hosogai, Cigerci - Allagui, Skjelbred, N. Schulz - Ramos
Freiburg: Baumann - Sorg, Ginter, Höhn, C. Günter - Schuster, Fernandes - Schmid, Pilar - Darida, Mehmedi