Hertha Berlin became a by word for a joke club during the course of last season. There was the high profile appointment of Jürgen Klinsmann as trainer which ended with his even higher profile departure only a couple of months later, amid much mutual recrimination about unfulfilled promises. Then in May, as the Bundesliga season was getting ready to restart, there was the embarrassing video which Salomon Kalou put out of him breaking social distancing guidelines with his teammates, which lead to a suspension.
After losing five of the last six games to finish the season, any optimism generated by the arrival of new trainer Bruno Labbadia had well and truly vanished. The gulf between the capital’s major club and the leading group of Bundesliga teams seemed as big as ever.
This impression seems to be confirmed by the defeat to Eintracht Braunschweig, who were only promoted from the third to second division last season, in the first round of the DFB Pokal, one of the few upsets on a weekend when nearly all the leading Bundesliga teams dispatched lower league opposition with ease.
However all this was cast aside last weekend when Hertha travelled to Werder Bremen and won 4-1 at a canter. Two goals just before half time, followed by another just after the hour meant that Labbadia’s team were never in trouble. Whilst Bremen are far from the strongest opposition, it was a perfect start. Now they face Eintracht Frankfurt this evening and a win will put them top, at least until Bayern Munich and the other leading teams play tomorrow. Frankfurt laboured to a 1-1 draw at home to newly promoted Arminia Bielefeld, so Hertha will go into the match with confidence that they can make it two wins out of two.
Whilst it Is of course way too early to make any rash pronouncements that Labbadia has fashioned a team which can compete with the likes of BVB Dortmund and RB Leipzig, if not quite Bayern Munich yet, the outcome of tonight’s game will go a long way to giving the long suffering fans of the capital’s flagship team some hope that their team will be in the fight for European places come the end of the season.