Hertha BSC look set to be welcomed hostilely by Brondby IF as the Berliners head to Copenhagen looking to take a further step towards their first appearance in a European group stage since 2009. Holding a 1-0 lead from the first leg, courtesy of Vedad Ibisevic's stunning overhead kick, they know a clean sheet would guarantee progress.
Hertha's long winless streak is finally snapped
Having completed the initial job in the unfamiliar surroundings of the Friedrich Ludwig Jahn Sportpark in east Berlin, Pal Dardai's men hold a precious goal advantage heading into the game in the outskirts of Copenhagen. To the delight of the 18,000 uninhibited fans, the Berliners produced a mostly comfortable performance to secure their first win against worthy opponents since the late Spring; with the best of respect to the likes of FSV 63 Luckenwalde.
That is not to say they were without their troubles to seek, with the ever dependable Rune Jarstein having to look sharp on several occasions to ensure his clean sheet remained, and Temu Pukki managing to evade the defence to find himself clean through on goal only to send a needless chip pitifully over the bar in what was a huge let off for the Berliners.
However, the 1-0 scoreline abided and it could prove crucial in what should be a tight second leg affair. Brondby, fierce rivals of the historically more successful FC Copenhagen in the infamous 'New Firm' derby, proved themselves to be no pushovers in the first leg. Combative, hard in the tackle, but not without a touch of flair, Andrew Hjulsager perhaps the pick of the bunch, they certainly caused a nervy looking Hertha some issues.
Having squeezed through against Scottish Cup champions Hibernian FC in the Second Qualifying Round, they will be looking to make the Final Playoff Round for the fourth time in six seasons; although they have fallen at that hurdle every time.
A strong Hertha side head to Copenhagen as they look to emulate history
Meanwhile Hertha are looking to emulate their 2009/10 season, where they reached the Round of 32 only to be thrashed over two legs by Benfica. Coming off the back of their most successful Bundesliga season since the one which preceded that European run, die Blau-Wießen there is no reason why the cannot at least reach the group stages.
In the hopes of doing so, Pal Dardai looks to have taken no chances as he has given himself a fully strength squad to choose from, minus new signing Ondrej Duda who remains cup-tied having already played in Europe this season, and having named a significantly weaker lineup in Saturday's friendly match versus Braunschweig with the likes of Ronny and Sami Allagui appearing. They will more than likely play no part in Thursday's match.
'We saw that Brondby were a good team on Thursday.' Per Ciljan Skjelbred remarked to Hertha's official Youtube channel in the build up to the game. 'But we made many chances and had a lot of the ball, so we are confident.'
Skjelbred has experienced Copenhagen in European football before, when the Norwegian was part of the Rosenborg BK side who defeated FC Copenhagen over two-legs in the Playoff for the 2010/11 Champions League; he will be hoping for a similar result this time around.
Coach Pal Dardai mirrored his midfielder's comments on Monday. 'We have all seen that we played against a good team, but we head into the game on the back of a good result in the first-leg.' He then continued, 'if we score, then Brondby need to score three, so this is our goal. However, we must do the simple things right and know that we will get our chances.'
Brondby continue to be significantly weakened by the absence of their influential captain, Thomas Kahlenberg, who remains sidelined with an injury, so there is a chance that former the former Leeds United midfielder, Rudy Austin, may play some part. The Jamaican came on in the second half of last week's tie and only festered Brondby's no nonsense approach to defending with some meaty challenges.
The Hertha players will know that their slender advantage could easily be forgone if they do not produce the type of performance that saw them seriously threaten for the Champions League places last season. Still looking like they could do with another player or two to really help them push on this season, the Berliners will have to rely upon the tried and tested to see them through in what should be a fascinating test.