DAVID SMITH - Thursday, August 4, 2016
John Brooks should anchor Hertha's back line on Thursday evening in Denmark when the team tries to protect their narrow one-goal advantage against Brøndby.
Hertha put themselves in a strong position to advance from the third round of qualification after shutting Brøndby out in last week's first-leg win, ensuring that scoring any away goals in the return leg could put the game out of their opponents' reach.
The tie would have been on even footing were it not for the individual brilliance of striker Vedad Ibisevic, whose stunning bicycle kick in the first half was responsible for the lone goal in the game.
This could very well end up being the decider, as it puts dual pressure on the Danes not only to win Thursday's return leg, but also ensure that they either do so in the process of shutting out their opponents, or win by a multi-goal margin.
They suffered their first set-back of the regular season over the weekend, wastefully allowing AC Horsens to fight back from a two-goal deficit to claim a draw in Brøndby Stadium.
Hertha, who are still three weeks away from lifting the curtain on their Bundesliga season, will hope that this collapse bodes well for their chances to notch multiple away goals in order to put the game out of reach as early as possible.
They will be missing recent team addition Ondrej Duda, as the Slovakian midfielder is both ineligible for the competition until the group stage, and currently sidelined with a minor knee problem.
Similarly, Brazilian midfielder Allan, who joined on a loan deal from Liverpool, will likely be unable to participate as he was stuck in England longer than expected arranging for his move to Berlin and needs to acclimatize with his new team.
Brøndby are still without team captain Thomas Kahlenberg as well as the strike duo of Gustaf Nilsson and Ariel Nuñez, all of whom are working their way back from injury.