This weekend, Dortmund travel to the capital city of Germany, Berlin, to face third place Hertha. Tuchel's side should not underestimate their opponents in this one, as Pal Dardai has quietly built a solid Hertha team. While they may not end up finishing third, Hertha has certainly been one of the huge surprises this season.
Dardai took over at Hertha last season on an interim basis in February, and narrowly led them to safety, avoiding the relegation play-off only on goal difference. The Hertha brass decided at the end of the season to give him a permanent contract, and it sure as hell paid off.
When looking at the table, people just see Hertha sitting impressively in third place. But if you dig a little deeper, perhaps just by taking a look at the squad, you'll see that the team isn't just a group of over-performers, it's a good bunch of players. Vedad Ibisevic and Salomon Kalou, Hertha's leading scorers, are both experienced players who typically do score a good amount of goals. Their defense is strong as well, with center back Sebastian Langkamp and midfielders Fabian Lusteneberger and Per Skjelbred enjoying good seasons as well.
One player that US readers might know is center back John Anthony Brooks, who recently extended his contract at Hertha among reported interest from Schalke and Bayern. Just the fact that those two teams are interested says a lot about the season Brooks is having. Another player who has stood out for Hertha is former Bayern youth star Mitchell Weiser, finally living up to his potential after being sold this summer.
Hertha won't be easy taking down at home, as they've only lost at the Olympiastadion once this season. They'll likely set up in a 5-4-1 shape, which they have only deployed against us and Bayern so far this year.
On the Dortmund side of things, Thomas Tuchel will have Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus, and Marcel Schmelzer back at his disposal. Dortmund should be a bit more tactically prepared for this game after last weeks disaster, where Tuchel didn't expect a pressing Ingolstadt team. The team was unable to adapt and as a result, played horribly till the 75th minute.
Gonzalo Castro will likely come into the side for Shinji Kagawa, who endured his worst game of the season last week. Ever since November, Tuchel has been leaning towards Castro rather than Kagawa, possibly because of Kagawa's inability to play anywhere other than the center, while Castro has a lot more versatility.
In the reverse fixture, Dortmund took care of Hertha relatively easily in a 3-1 win, while Hertha's lone goal was scored in an offside position. Adrian Ramos poked one in for us at the end, but it's unlikely he'll see much time on the pitch after his less than impressive performance against Ingolstadt.
This will the second of the four tough away games Dortmund will have to endure this Ruckrunde. We took care of Gladbach, but still face Leverkusen and Schalke on the road in the coming weeks. If Dortmund can get the job done here, they'll move 13 points clear of Hertha, and maintain a 13 point minimum lead on whoever is in third place. It won't be easy once again for die Schwarzgelb, but they should be able to overpower Hertha.
Hertha: Jarstein, Weiser, Langkamp, Brooks, Plattenhardt, Lustenberger, Darida, Kalou, Baumjohann, Haraguchi, Ibisevic
Dortmund: Burki, Piszczek, Hummels, Sokratis, Schmelzer, Weigl, Gundogan, Castro, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Reus