Felix Magath is nervous. But Felix Magath, the coach of Hertha BSC, says he is nervous before every game. So his nervous tension is not solely due to the fact that he and his team have a special game in the Bundesliga this Saturday (3:30 p.m., live on Sky). If the Berliners score at Borussia Dortmund, they are saved. If Hertha does not score while VfB Stuttgart wins against 1. FC Köln in the parallel game, Hertha’s season goes into overtime with two relegation games against the third-placed team in the second division.
Of course, the fans already have an inkling of what’s about to happen. One this, the other that. There are good reasons for each of the two variants. Here you are.
The trainer. Felix Magath, soon to be 69 years old, has seen pretty much everything in his career. Only one thing not: relegation from the Bundesliga. Apart from these statistics, Magath’s work in Berlin also fuels the confidence that things will turn out well for Hertha. The coach not only exudes the calm that is needed in such a situation, he has also decisively stabilized the team.
“I started here, we were relegated there,” says Magath. “Everything was full of resignation and hopelessness.” The Berliners were in 17th place in mid-March, having not won a single game up to that point in 2022. Since then, they’ve picked up ten points from seven games – and they’re still in the comfortable position of having everything in their own hands.
Borussia Dortmund. VfB Stuttgart, on the other hand, the last remaining competitor for 16th place, is dependent on outside help, namely on that of Borussia Dortmund. “Maybe they still have a heart for the little fat ones,” says Stuttgart’s sports director Sven Mislintat, who was not only born in Dortmund, but also worked for BVB as a scout for many years. Perhaps.
It’s not really about much for Dortmund anymore, especially since the game against Hertha will be all about farewells and there will be a lot of nostalgia over the stadium. This is less true in the case of Erling Haaland, who continues to follow the money trail after two and a half years at BVB. This applies above all to two true Borussia players: Marcel Schmelzer, who came to BVB as a teenager and is now, 17 years later, retiring. And of course for Michael Zorc, who is retiring completely from professional football after almost four and a half decades with Borussia Dortmund.
the memory There wasn’t too much that Hertha BSC can look back on with, yes, almost something like pride this season. The first leg against BVB just before Christmas is a laudable exception. The Berliners won 3:2, and this game still serves as proof that a lot more could have been done if they had better exploited their own opportunities.
The coach at the time, Tayfun Korkut, saw “a lot of enthusiasm, creativity and courage” in his team in this game. Unfortunately, the winter break came right after that, and when the second half of the season started, there wasn’t much left to see in terms of enthusiasm, creativity and courage.
Marco Richter, who scored two of the three goals in the win against BVB, is available again this Saturday in Dortmund after his yellow card suspension. And Stevan Jovetic, Hertha’s top scorer, returns to the squad after a five-week injury break. It’s not enough for the starting eleven, but maybe for a use as a joker and the decisive goal to stay up in injury time.
1. FC Cologne. Regardless of the fact that the Cologne team still have a chance at the Europa League (instead of the Conference League) and should therefore be highly motivated against VfB Stuttgart: VfB is also something of their favorite opponent.
FC have already defeated Stuttgart twice this season – in the league and in the cup. And anyway: More feared opponents are hardly possible. In this millennium, VfB has only won one home game (out of twelve) against FC. Nowhere in the history of the Bundesliga have there been more victories for Cologne than in Stuttgart, a total of 14 times.
And here’s a special treat for everyone who was socialized with the Ran-Sat1 database in the nineties: On a Saturday at half past three, VfB last won against Cologne at home exactly 30 years ago. In the season at the end of which he became German champion.
The trainer. Felix Magath has a wealth of experience that should not be neglected. Maybe that’s why he sees things more clearly than many others do. When something like euphoria about staying up in the league broke out around Hertha, the coach warned and warned. With good reason, as it now turns out.
What Felix Magath says is true. And Magath said weeks ago: Hertha will play in the relegation against HSV, his old love. There’s nothing you can do about it.
The staff. On Thursday, two days before the game in Dortmund, the boss took on a task that he otherwise leaves to Hertha’s press spokesman: the update on the personnel situation. Because: The personnel situation is serious. So serious that Magath “had a little concern” at the beginning of the week.
A wave of colds has broken over Hertha. Linus Gechter and Niklas Stark are probably missing in Dortmund, at least with Dedryck Boyata it looks like he can play. The question remains how long the air will last.
Borussia Dortmund. “We’re playing against the runners-up,” says Felix Magath. “Of course Borussia Dortmund is the clear favourite.” Of course, that’s no guarantee that the favorite will win in the end. In the case of Hertha BSC, however, there is a lot to be said for it.
The Berliners have lost eleven of their thirteen games so far against the top seven in the table, i.e. the clubs that will be represented in the European Cup next season. They could only win one. At least against BVB.
The tradition. Last day of the game: traditionally difficult for Hertha BSC. In the past five years, the Berliners have always lost the final game of the season – sometimes even badly. They last got a point in 2016, in the 0-0 draw in Mainz. The last victory was exactly ten years ago and brought Hertha into the relegation. Maybe this time it’s the other way around.