If Hertha Berlin can return from Cologne with all three points on Friday night, they will rise off the bottom of the Bundesliga standings.
With a victory, FC Koln would move up to position 10 after winning three of their previous five games.
Cologne regained their place in the top division last week with a 2-1 victory at a hot Bayer Leverkusen team after a challenging Bundesliga campaign. Due to their ten points deficit to the top six teams, the Billy Goats currently have very little to play for in the remaining weeks of the season. A push for the European slots appears to be out of reach at this time.
Interestingly, Cologne hasn’t won back to back games in the Bundesliga this season, a record manager Steffen Baumgart will look to break when Hertha Berlin comes to the RheinEnergieStadion under threat of relegation. But given that Cologne have failed to score in four of those games, a five matches home winless streak (D2, L3) raises questions about whether they’ll be able to get three points today.
Hertha enters the Carnival City after a recent 2-1 victory over Stuttgart, which rekindled their survival chances after an eight matches losing streak (D2, L6). Die Alte Dame have three rounds left but are three points outside the relegation playoff spot. However, history does not favor them as only one team that is currently at the bottom of the table has managed to stay up this century (Stuttgart 2014/15).
Hertha must snap a dreadful 12 matches winless Bundesliga road streak (D2, L10) if they hope to make Bundesliga history, and coach Pál Dárdai may struggle to instill confidence in his team considering that they have only won one league away game all year. In recent months, the club has also struggled financially, and even if they manage to avoid the relegation, their place in the top division may be in jeopardy.
Davie Selke, a forward for Cologne, scored twice when his team defeated Leverkusen. He may return to haunt his previous employers here as he has scored four goals in six head to head matches (W4, D1, L1). Selke wasn’t the only forward to change teams in January; winter acquisition Florian Niederlechner scored his first goal for Hertha to secure the win over Stuttgart.
Due to Benno Schmitz’s suspension for receiving his fifth caution of the year during Koln’s victory over Bayer Leverkusen last weekend, Kristian Pedersen, a left footer, would have to fill in on his less favorite flank on Friday.
Forwards Long term ailments have kept Mark Uth and Florian Dietz out of action, but Sebastian Andersson might be able to rejoin the matchday squad after recovering from knee surgery.
Due to a long term knee injury, Hertha will be without Kelian Nsona, and Marco Richter and Marc Oliver Kempf are in a tight window to return after being replaced against Stuttgart due to muscular and head problems, respectively.
Dardai will want to make as few changes as possible after securing a crucial victory last time out, but Agustin Rogel and Jessic Ngankam are ready to step in should they be unable to start.
FC Koln possible starting lineup
Schwabe, Pedersen, Hubers, Chabot, Hector, Ljubicic, Skhiri, Thielmann, Kainz, Maina and Selke.
Hertha Berlin possible starting lineup
Christensen, Kenny, Uremovic, Kempf, Plattenhardt, Lukebakio, Tousart, Dardai, Richter, Niederlechner and Jovetic.
We predict: FC Koln 1-1 Hertha Berlin
Given that Koln has far less to play for between now and the conclusion of the season, Hertha will likely be more motivated to earn all three points on Friday.
But the hosts come into this match in respectable shape lately and won’t want their opponents to outfight them, so we can anticipate a split of the points.