Tullberg expecting a "50-50 game" against Hertha BSC

2024-05-15 09:04 AM by Borussia Dortmund–  5m read

Borussia's U19s will kick off the final round of the German Championship on Thursday with their semi-final first leg against Hertha BSC, who finished top of the A-Junior Bundesliga Nord/Nordost (18:30 CEST, Youth Performance Centre). The U17s will play in the Westfalenpokal semi-final.

The second match will see western runners-up Borussia Mönchengladbach and TSG Hoffenheim, the champions of the Bundesliga Süd/Südwest, go head-to-head. From next season onwards, the junior football champions will be determined via a DFB Youth League. In the final round, four teams will play two knockout matches to determine the finalists.

Since the foundation of the Bundesliga (2003), no club has been more successful than BVB who have won the title four times (2016, 2017, 2019 and 2022) and have regularly reached the final round since 2016. A year ago, Borussia were beaten in the final by FSV Mainz 05 (4-2 after extra-time). Following the U17s' triumph, the BVB youngsters will have the opportunity to round off the 2023/24 season by sealing a Championship double.

But accomplishing this mission will be a major challenge. "I have huge respect for this Berlin team, which has won the title for the third time in a row in a Nord/Nordost category that is not easy, and for the work that is being done at the Hertha Academy," explained Mike Tullberg, who recently observed the Berlin outfit live as they won 2-0 in a table-topping clash with Wolfsburg. "This is a very mature opponent. It will be decided by form on the day," said the BVB coach, who is expecting a "50:50 game".

Academy talents in the 2. Bundesliga

Four players from the Hertha U19 squad have already shone in the Regionalliga this season. U17 World Cup winner Bence Dardai has passed his first tests in the 2. Bundesliga and keeper Tim Goller is regarded as one of Germany's biggest goalkeeping talents. The "Berlin Way", as the club's leadership have called it, has seen up to six youngsters promoted to the first team from the academy.

The two teams met in the semi-final of the German Championship for the first time in 2018. BVB, then second in the western pool, lost 4-0 in Berlin in the first leg. Borussia played themselves into a frenzy in the return leg and led 3-0, only for a severe storm to disrupt the Black & Yellows' flow. The Berlin outfit used the long break in the game to regroup and wrapped up qualification for the final by scoring a goal to make it 3-1 in the closing stages. They went on to beat FC Schalke 04 in the final.

BVB victorious in recent clashes

BVB have come out on top in both of the last two meetings. Mike Tullberg's team ran out 2-1 winners in the Berlin final in 2022. Then, in 2023, Borussia claimed a 4-0 victory in the semi-final first leg at Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark, before seeing their comfortable lead over the finish line in the return fixture (1-0 loss). "You cannot make comparisons with last year because the two teams that are facing each other are different," said Mike Tullberg. Only Rafael Lubach, Danylo Krevsun and Paris Brunner were part of the BVB starting line-up a year ago, with Jaden Korzynietz, Cole Campbell and Kjell Wätjen coming on as substitutes. 

Mike Tullberg has had his full squad at his disposal since Tuesday. That includes Elias Benkara, Ousmane Diallo and Taycan Etcibasi from the title-winning U17 team. Captain Filippo Mane has also returned to training following a long injury lay-off. "The final round of the German Championship is a new competition in which we would like to be successful," explained Tullberg, before adding: "We need to try to show our attacking strength on the pitch in order to put ourselves in a good starting position for the return fixture in Berlin."

To this end, he is hoping for great support in the stands. Tullberg: "The lads have earned themselves that after an outstanding Bundesliga season." 

U17 champions in the Westfalenpokal semi-final

After winning their eighth German B-Junior Championship, the Borussia U17s must take their season into extra-time and travel to Westfalenliga outfit Hombrucher SV in the Westfalenpokal semi-final on Thursday (18:30 CEST).

"It feels as though the season was complete following the final victory against Leverkusen, but we will now take on this task too and of course naturally want to win," explained Marco Lehmann prior to the local derby at Stadion Deutsch-Luxemburger Straße. If that were to happen, the boys would play in another final. The opposition would then be FC Schalke 04, who qualified for the final of the Westfalenpokal thanks to a 5-3 penalty shootout victory against SC Paderborn.

Marco Lehmann will primarily include players in the starting line-up that have recently had little playing time. Missing from the squad are Elias Benkara, Ousmane Diallo, Taycan Etcibasi (with the U19s) and Thierry Tazemeta, who is with Austria at the U17 European Championships. (wiwi)

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