Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
With Bayern Munich disappearing over the horizon, Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga title hopes have all but evaporated, however, with qualification for next season’s Champions League not yet secured, Die Schwarzgelben still have plenty to play for.
On Saturday, Lucien Favre’s free-scoring side host one of the division’s most improved outfits since the resumption of play at the Signal Iduna Park – Hertha Berlin.
With Bruno Labbadia’s influence apparent, Die Alte Dame harnessed the power of the new manager bounce to explode out of the traps last month, taking maximum points in three of their first four matches back after the postponement, beating Hoffenheim, city rivals Union and Augsburg to nil, and earning a useful draw at high flying RB Leipzig.
With just four points separating Hertha in 10th from Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga’s last continental qualification berth in 6th, the club from the capital will be desperate to prolong their surge up the standings at Dortmund’s expense this weekend.
Below, we take a look at the key individual battles that could decide the tie, and if you’re looking for more analysis check out our Borussia Dortmund vs Hertha Berlin predictions here.
Jadon Sancho vs Maximilian Mittelstädt
Football’s next superstar in the making, Jadon Sancho, was restored to the Borussia Dortmund starting XI for the first time since the enforced COVID-10 led hiatus last weekend, and the England international’s impact was devastating.
The attacking midfielder, who has been linked with a £100m move to Manchester United this summer, bagged a sensational first career hattrick in Dortmund’s 6-1 battering of the Bundesliga’s bottom club Paderborn, and with confidence soaring, Sancho should prove difficult to keep under wraps again this weekend.
Hertha left-back Maximilian Mittelstädt could be handed the unenviable task of trying to limit Sancho’s influence. The 23-year-old is enjoying a productive season of his own with Berlin and has been among the team’s most impressive individual performers since Bruno Labbadia’s appointment.
Sancho has scored three times against Hertha in previous meetings however and will be hard to stop.
Thorgan Hazard vs Dedryck Boyata
With first-choice centre-forward Erling Haaland nursing a knee complaint, versatile Belgian attacker Thorgan Hazard will likely reprise his role as a member of Dortmund’s front three on Saturday.
Hazard helped himself to a goal and an assist in Der BVB’s rout of Paderborn last weekend, bringing his tally for the campaign to seven and 13 in each of the aforementioned metrics respectively.
The 27-year-old’s penchant for drifting across the frontline in search of space to exploit might well attract the attention of his compatriot Dedryck Boyata.
The physically dominant 29-year-old is one of Hertha Berlin’s key performers, though his record of seven bookings in 24 Bundesliga starts in 2019/20 so far highlights his habit of mistiming a challenge or two.
Achraf Hakimi vs Javairô Dilrosun
The Bundesliga’s answer to Trent Alexander-Arnold, prolific Dortmund right back Achraf Hakimi scored his 5th league goal of the season against Paderborn last weekend, adding more clout to his already insanely productive haul for the campaign that also includes 10 assists from his defensive berth.
The Moroccan international, who dovetails so beautifully with Jadon Sancho down the right flank, is a forward-thinking defender cut from the modern clothe, however, he might have to call on his more traditional positional traits to keep a lid on Javairô Dilrosun.
The Dutch winger started for the first time under Bruno Labbadia against Augsburg last weekend and repaid his new manager’s faith by firing home the opening goal in a 2-0 Hertha win. The 21-year-old’s sparkling run out means he has a great shot at keeping his place for Saturday’s contest.
Mats Hummels vs Vedad Ibisevic
Two of the most experienced players on the pitch are likely to be deployed in direct opposition to each other on Saturday when 31-year-old Mats Hummels lines up against 35-year-old Vedad Ibisevic.
Dortmund defender Hummels remains one of the Bundesliga’s classiest operators at centre-half and that combination of calmness and composure he wields makes him a tough opponent for just about any forward in the division.
Streetwise Bosnian Vedad Ibisevic has been around the block more than a couple of times however, and the veteran forward, who has scored over 100 Bundesliga goals during his career, has the tools to make life uncomfortable for his German international opponent.
Axel Witsel vs Matheus Cunha
Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel made a welcome return from injury when he was introduced from the bench against Paderborn last week, and the Belgian international capped his comeback with an assist one minute from time.
The 31-year-old’s 20-minute run out could be followed up by his first Bundesliga start since early March on Saturday, and Witsel’s first game back in the saddle could see him come face-to-face with a red-hot Matheus Cunha.
Cunha sat out Hertha’s 2-0 triumph over Augsburg with a concussion, and while his reintroduction to the Die Alte Dame squad hasn’t been officially confirmed, the Brazilian should have enough time to recover.
With some scintillating performances marked by two goals in three starts, Cunha has been in electrifying form since the season’s restart, and the 21-year-old will hope to sprinkle some more of his star dust on Saturday’s game.
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