Bundesliga preview

Hertha look to take over at the top

February 5, 2009

Hertha Berlin will be without striker Marko Pantelic when they bid to go top of the Bundesliga at Arminia Bielefeld on Friday.

The Serb, who has a prickly relationship with coach Lucien Favre, scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend but also sustained an ankle injury that keeps him out against lowly Bielefeld.

"We want to get used to being top," Hertha manager Dieter Hoeness told the league's official website (www.bundesliga.de). "At the end of the season we definitely want to be among the top five or six."

With at least five teams locked in a tight title chase, consistency could be the key to success and Hertha have hit form at the right time, chalking up six wins in seven matches to move within two points of surprise leaders Hoffenheim.

Breathing down their necks are Hamburg SV, on the same points as the Berlin club and with an inferior goal difference.

Hamburg travel to relegation-threatened Karlsruhe on Saturday hoping to build on their win over Bayern Munich last week.

With six new signings in the January transfer window, Hamburg have been busy strengthening their midfield and defence and will need to raise their game on their travels after picking up only one win in the last five away matches.

Hoffenheim have a seemingly easier task when they visit bottom club Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday and with the league's most potent attack facing the worst defence it could be a high-scoring affair.

Fourth-placed Bayern, three points off the pace, host Borussia Dortmund on Sunday needing to bounce back from last week's defeat.

Bayer Leverkusen and Dortmund are lurking just behind Bayern, waiting for them to slip up again.

In-form Leverkusen, who have signed talented young midfielder Toni Kroos on loan from Bayern, host VfB Stuttgart on Saturday. The visitors have yet to lose in the league since coach Markus Babbel took over in November.

Pre-season favourites Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen, ninth and 10th respectively, meet on Saturday with both teams having been hit recently by player indiscipline, suspensions and a string of poor results.