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Preview: Bayern Munich host Hertha Berlin

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Hertha are determined not to abandon all hope as they enter the Allianz, just most of it.

The Hertha BSC mascot Herthinho reacts after Hertha loses the Bundesliga match against 1. FSV Mainz 05 at Olympiastadion on February 16, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.
Hertha’s mascot “Herthinho” cannot bear to watch what will happen when Hertha run out onto the pitch in Munich. Berni may need to revive him with Weißbier.
Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images

It has been a long time since Hertha Berlin last defeated Bayern Munich at home. “How long?” you ask. Only forty years: Hertha beat Bayern 2:0 in Munich on October 29, 1977. Jupp Heynckes and his team have no intention of letting that undefeated streak slip away now. After crushing Besiktas on Tuesday, they carry that momentum into yet another game against a cagey, gritty opponent.

Thiago back in the starting lineup

Bayern Munich will take the field against Hertha without two, and possibly four, starters. Jupp Heynckes announced at the pregame press conference that neither Jerome Boateng nor James Rodriguez will be available to play. Boateng has a cold, and James suffered a minor calf injury in Bayern’s game against Besiktas.

Mats Hummels and Joshua Kimmich are additionally questionable, although Heynckes stressed that he does not want to rotate the team excessively and break the team’s rhythm. Here is how Heynckes might line up the team:

With James definitely out, Thomas Müller can slot into his position behind Robert Lewandowski. With no need to accommodate two free-roaming play-makers on the attacking line, the team can line up in a more conventional 4-2-3-1 (rather than a 4-1-4-1). Thiago should be ready to start, lining up as the offensive half of a double pivot with Javi Martinez—or possibly Arturo Vidal.

That leads us to the back line: since Boateng is definitely out, Niklas Süle will take his place. If Mats Hummels additionally is not fit to play, Javi will likely drop back and play as a center-back, making it an easy choice to start Vidal or possibly Sebastian Rudy in the 6 spot. Rafinha can relieve Kimmich at right-back.

Bayern will need to play creatively up front and utilize the breadth of the field, as Hertha will stand compactly and attempt to maintain a very tight defense through the middle.

“Hopefully we finish the game with 11 men”

Hertha's Pal Dardai made no bones about what awaits him and his team at the Allianz Arena. Dardai explained at the press conference,

I even went to the library. I looked for the book, How do you beat Bayern Munich? I didn’t find it. So we’ll just have to come up with something.

Dardai seemed resigned to the fact that tactical niceties will not make his task any easier:

Back five, back four, back ten, or a Berlin Wall—you don’t need to say anything against Bayern. You need good form on game day and should enjoy the fact that you’re able to play against the best team.

Hertha thus will stick to what it does well and presumably line up in a 4-2-3-1 fronted by Davie Selke, since regular striker Vedad Ibisevic suffered a broken nose in Hertha’s sobering 0:2 loss to Mainz. Here is what Hertha may look like tomorrow:

Bayern’s wayward right-back Mitchell Weiser has unfortunately struggled constantly with injury this season. Dardai said it would be too early for Weiser to start, although he could play a few minutes off the bench. Up front, Dardai could opt to start Matthew Leckie on the left wing instead of Solomon Kalou, and Ondrej Duda might get a rare chance to start in the central midfield, allowing Darida to rest. Maximilian Mittelstädt is another option there.

Hertha undoubtedly will attempt to stay compact and organized, keeping Bayern as far away from their penalty area as possible while waiting for opportunities to launch counters. It Bayern repeat their lethargic first half performance against Besiktas, it could become a dicey game against Hertha. But a frustrated Ribery and Robben might just instead make Hertha pay the price for their appearances on the bench Tuesday.