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Bundesliga preview: Battered Hertha look to rebuild

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Bundesliga preview: Battered Hertha look to rebuild
Photo: DPA
07:28 CEST+02:00
Hertha Berlin's caretaker coach Karsten Heine is insisting on a back-to-basics policy as he prepares his side for the unenviable task of facing league-leaders Hamburg in Sunday's showdown.

Hertha sacked Swiss coach Lucien Favre on Monday after his side were hammered 5-1 at Hoffenheim, just a week after they were torn apart 4-0 at home by Freiburg.

Despite having lead the Bundesliga for part of last season, Hertha are rooted to the bottom of the table this term with just three points from seven games.

And Hertha's interim coach has key omissions to contend with. Goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny (thigh), midfielders Florian Kringe (foot), Cicero (calf) and Patrick Ebert (knee) are all facing a race to be fit in time after missing Thursday's Europa League clash at Sporting Lisbon. But Germany defender Arne Friedrich (bruised thigh) and midfielder Gojko Kacar (thigh muscle) are expected to be fit.

With his side lacking in confidence and short on form, Heine is taking a simple approach.

"We have to allow basic football virtues to take centre stage again. Simple passing, strong running and functioning as a team again."

Hamburg hosted Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Europa League on Thursday and will also be hoping to have come through that match-injury free.

Seventh-placed Bayern Munich, who slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Hamburg last weekend, are at home to Cologne but will be without wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery - dubbed 'Robbery' by the German media - who have picked up knee injuries.

Robben is expected to be out for four weeks after a scan of his injured right knee revealed minor damage and he needs a small operation. Given the Dutchman's previous injury history, there was relief around Munich's Allianz Arena, especially as Robben only joined from Real Madrid last month.

"It is not as bad as we first thought, but it is obviously still a problem," said Bayern coach Louis van Gaal. "Thank goodness for the international games next week."

And Belgian defender Daniel van Buyten is doubtful for the Cologne game after damaging his ankle against Juventus.

Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen will face bottom-three side Nuremberg without Brazilian Renato Augusto after the midfielder picked up a knee injury. Rising star Tony Kroos will take his place.

VfB Stuttgart coach Markus Babbel gave his side the day off on Thursday as they prepare for a tough game against Werder Bremen on Sunday having drawn 1-1 at Romania's Unirea Urziceni in the Champions League last Tuesday.

"Werder are a high quality side," said Babbel with his side 11th in the league while Bremen are fifth. "The team has a fantastic blend of young, talented players and more

experienced professionals.

"It's certainly a team that will be amongst the top sides in the league and they have been consistently involved in Europe for many years now."

Babbel will be without Martin Lanig and Aliaksandr Hleb once again against Bremen, whilst a question mark continues to hang over the availability of Serdar Tasci, who took a knock to the knee against Unirea.

Having roasted Berlin last weekend, third-placed Hoffenheim are starting to show the sort of form which saw them lead the Bundesliga during last season's winter break.

Striker Vedad Ibisevic marked his return from a cruciate ligament injury earlier in the year with a first-half hat-trick against Berlin and the Bosnian will be looking to add to his tally against Mainz, who are eighth.

Champions Wolfsburg, just edged in midweek in the Champions League by Manchester United, travel to Bochum seeking to improve on sixth spot.

Fixtures:

Friday

Schalke 04 v Eintracht Frankfurt

Saturday

Bayern Munich v Cologne

Bayer Leverkusen v Nuremberg

Hanover 96 v Freiburg

VfL Bochum v VfL Wolfsburg

Mainz 05 v Hoffenheim

Borussia M'gladbach v Borussia Dortmund

Sunday

VfB Stuttgart v Werder Bremen

Hertha Berlin v Hamburg

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