23 points from 13 games and, as it stands, on course for a qualifying tilt at next year's UEFA Champions League: Hertha Berlin are unquestionably the top-end surprise package of the season so far. On the back of a consolidatory 1-0 home win against 1899 Hoffenheim, the alte Dame heads south sitting pretty fourth in the table, to face the ultimate test of her revitalised credentials – against FC Bayern München, at the Allianz Arena.
Head coach Pal Dardai has brought a clear-cut strategy to bear on a team now playing with more fluency, consistency and bite.
"We'll be totally focused in our preparations. Bayern are one of the best sides in the world, but we're traveling to Munich in high spirits and with confidence. 23 points are proof enough that we don't necessarily have to park the bus," said Dardai. Not that he is advocating a strategy of all-out attack, either – knowing full well that this one will require a certain adaptation of the possession-heavy, midfield pressing style that has served Hertha so well of late.
"We'll think of something," the 39-year-old former Hungary international said; "Against a team as dominant as Bayern, that kind of work really tires you out by a certain point." One way or another, the added measure of disciplined fighting spirit and points-gathering efficiency that Dardai has brought to Hertha's game will be required down to the last drop on Saturday – and not just in light of the hosts' own near-immaculate balance this season.
Bayern have won the sides' last eight meetings, racking up 26 goals in the process. They have beaten the capital club eight times running on home turf as well, putting 28 past them along the way. One statistical ray of hope for Hertha lies in the fact that three of their four most recent defeats were by a single goal. The last time they came away from Munich with anything to show for it was back in August 2004, when Dardai was out on the pitch helping them earn a 1-1 draw. And the last time they actually beat Bayern in their own back yard – 2-0 in October 1977 – the current head coach was one year old.