Predictions and expectations for the coming season are everywhere during preseason. This seven week period, in which the media chatters away and the players work up a sweat in training, comes to an end for Hertha this Friday when they face Eintracht Braunschweig in the DFB-Pokal (20:45 CEST, 11.09.2020). Simply put, the time for talk is over – from Friday, its performances on the pitch that count. Among the squad, there is real excitement for the upcoming first-round match. “We are over the moon to finally get back underway,” says Dodi Lukébakio, underlining the players’ enthusiasm. The season kicks off with a knock-out match, adding an extra competitive edge to the fixture. “The cup is a really special competition – especially because the final will take place in our home city. We obviously want to be in that final, if possible.” The Belgian is speaking from the heart, and it is a sentiment that all Hertha fans would echo.
Searching for a new formula
This isn’t the only ambitious goal that Bruno Labbadia’s men have been working towards during the last few weeks at Schenckendorffplatz. Focus lies first and foremost on laying the groundwork to ensure a successful season. Hertha’s 2019/20 top scorer is remaining optimistic despite some inconsistent friendly results. "We have worked extremely hard, but now it’s up to us to perform at our best. Friday evening is the time to show what we’re made of,” says Lukébakio, looking ahead to the first assignment of 2020/21. This season, Hertha will have to make do without seasoned veterans like Per Skjelbred and Vedad Ibisevic, after the pair left Berlin during the summer break. “They were such important players for us, both on and off the pitch,” says Hertha’s number 28. Lukébakio, though, sees the departures as a chance to improve as a team: “We have to reinvent ourselves and come up with a new identity – in an ideal world, this will come quickly!”
The entire squad is responsible for overcoming the loss of such long-serving players. The winger does have his own personal target, however, as he aims to improve on last season’s goal tally. “I’m an attacker, so I want to score goals and help the team in that way,” says Lukébakio. The Belgian was driven in his hunt for goals last season and ended up being Hertha’s top scorer, but this year’s target is quite clear: “I always want to score more goals than the previous season. This year, that means that I need more than seven – that’s not too many for a striker.” Lukébakio looks assured of himself as he silently leaves the media room, with no more than a parting look back. After all, the time for talk is over.