PREVIEW: HERTHA BERLIN - BRØNDBY IF
John Brooks has been declared healthy and is expected to play on Thursday night when Hertha begin their Europa League Odyssey against Danish team Brøndby IF.
Hertha head coach Pal Dardai has signaled his intention to give Brooks the starting nod in central defense, barely one week after he returned from his post-Copa break to join the team in the middle of their pre-season.
After questions lingered as to their star defender's readiness after the three-week break and a minor knee problem, the coach simply stated "they will play" when asked during the team's pre-game press conference about Brooks' and starting right back Peter Pekarik's prospects on Thursday.
This gives him the full complement of players heading into what could be a tricky matchup against a team that is a regular participant in European competition.
Brøndby came through the second round of qualifications by the narrowest of margins, drawing Scottish team Hibernian 1-1 on aggregate after two full 90 minutes games and an extra 30 minutes of overtime, eventually winning in a penalty shootout.
They are also two games into their regular season, and have shown that whatever rust might have formed during the short off-season has been scraped away with little effort. Their two league games have led to two wins by a combined 6-0 margin, and they are currently looking like early-season favorites to challenge Copenhagen for league supremacy.
Hertha have traded their usual spacious accommodations of the Olympiastadion for the more intimate Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark, where they are expecting a sell-out crowd of nearly 19,000 fans.
Brøndby's German head coach Alexander Zorniger is missing left back Patrick da Silva due to injury, but otherwise has brought a full-strength squad with him to Berlin.