Berlin – Friday night floodlights, the big derby, what more could a football fan want? The Berlin derby between Hertha BSC and Union Berlin on Friday evening (22.05.20, 20:30 CEST), would under normal circumstances be a highlight of the closing stages of the season. However in the times of the Coronavirus pandemic, what are “normal circumstances”? It is well-known that the derby in the Olympiastadion on Matchday 27 will take place behind closed doors. “The situation with the Coronavirus has changed somewhat, and life as a whole has changed also. The focus however remains on Union and we really need those points”, said Hertha’s midfield engine Per Skjelbred, who hopes to beat Union on his 200th Bundesliga appearance.
This is a perfect opportunity for the Norwegian and his team-mates to get revenge on their city rivals after the defeat to Union in the first game of this fixture earlier this season. “This game is a great chance for us to strike back. We haven’t forgotten what happened in the Hinrunde, and it means a lot to us in the dressing room. We are only focussing on football and we want to win the game,” says the Norwegian, whose in-depth strategy will surely inspire Hertha fans everywhere. But Skjelbred knows that in such a big game it is only the performance over the 90 minutes and added time that will get the job done, and the Hertha fans will want another strong performance against Union after coach Bruno Labbadia’s successful debut in Sinsheim. “We need to win the ball in midfield, to get the best positions to move the ball forward. If we can do it well, we will make chances, even against a well-organised team like Union,” explained the 32-year-old.
Home advantage despite no Hertha fans
The offensive pressing, which already worked out well against TSG Hoffenheim, should be the key to victory on Friday, even if Skjelbred and Co have to go without the extra motivation of the supporters. “We are playing in our stadium, on our pitch. We know our pitch, and that is our home advantage!”, emphasised the midfielder. “Unfortunately, the great feeling of the fans isn’t there. But that affects both teams. It doesn’t matter what happens around us though, and we have to focus on our tasks and win the match,” says Skjelbred, who emphasises once more the importance of the derby for him and his teammates.
With these tactics in mind, Labbadia’s protégés will go into their second match against Union this season determined not to lose and suffer the results of such a failure. “After the result of the first game, I got some comments thrown at me when I was walking about. It wasn’t fun at all,” recalls Hertha’s number three from the beginning of November last year. Per Skjelbred will give everything on the pitch again, as usual, in order to ensure that that doesn’t happen again – and maybe even get the winner in his final season in the capital? “I focus on my tasks, and what I can do to help my teammates. Of course it would be cool to score against Union. It would be like a small parting gift to the fans,” said the Norwegian, as usual a bit reluctant to answer the question. That attitude will change on Friday evening, under the floodlights and in the Berlin derby, but without fans present.