Dortmund travel to face Hertha Berlin on the final match day of the year, looking to keep pace at the top of the table. The final game of the year always holds some extra, intangible importance as it sets the tone for the winter break and the ensuing campaign. When matches resume, is your team chasing or being chased? Is the winter camp joyous or grueling? Dortmund have the chance to set themselves up for a truly happy holiday with a win against a struggling opponent, but they will be forced to work around a few key player absences to do so.
Hertha are languishing down in 14th place, continuing last season’s poor run of form. Much was expected of the capital club when an outside investor injected new life into the team, but what looked like a revitalization turned into a big of a Hollywood dumpster fire, as big names like Krzysztof Piątek, Lucas Tousart, and Kevin-Prince Boateng have come in and failed to live up to expectation. Berlin flirted with relegation last season and have failed to right the ship. That said, they still possess quality players who will hurt a disorganized and apathetic Borussia Dortmund, should the team approach this game with a poor mindset.
There are some notable absentees from the Dortmund travel list, as reported on by Ruhr Nachrichten.
Dortmund players that made the trip to Berlin:— Stefan Buczko (@StefanBuczko) December 17, 2021
Hitz, Drljaca – Zagadou, Pongracic, Guerreiro, Schulz, Meunier, Passlack, Can, Witsel, Dahoud, Brandt, Reinier, Reus, Hazard, Knauff, Wolf, Haaland, Malen, Tigges https://t.co/QJPMqilMIs
The first key player missing is Gregor Kobel, who is out with a cold. It seems as though he should not have shared his lunch with Mats Hummels, because the veteran center back has picked up the bug as well. The Dortmund camp are not reporting these to be Omicron infections... I am a bit skeptical.
Still, without these players Marco Rose will be forced to field a weakened defense. I expect the coach to shy away from a Zagadou-Pongracic pairing, as the two have never shared the line alone and are both in shaky form. Look for Emre Can to resume his center back duties once again.
After his goal at the weekend, I expect Donaldo Mal-zario to make his return to the starting line. Though Thorgan Hazard has been cleared of what looked like another potentially costly hamstring injury, Marco Rose should look to give the Belgian a rest before something gets aggravated.
Jude Bellingham is out for the rest of 2021, having picked up his fifth yellow card for being a bit too unprofessional and will be forced to sit this out one.
One Berlin name I left out was that of Stevan Jovetic. The Montenegran former Manchester City striker arrived from Monaco this summer and has helped to keep Hertha’s heads above water in the fight against relegation. The veteran forward has notched five goals in ten appearances for the capital club, and will be looking to add to his tally against a league heavyweight like Borussia Dortmund. With a makeshift back line and second string goalkeeper, Marco Rose will need to be especially wary of the potential for Jovetic to ruin the holiday spirit for his squad.
Dortmund have been very hot-and-cold lately, with poor performances against low quality teams right in the rear-view mirror. It would be great to see the squad turn it around before the Winterpause, but I think Marco Rose will need that time away from the pitch to really get his squad’s ambitions aligned. Expect another annoying, unnecessarily stressful contest ending in a partially deserved 2-1 for the black and yellows.