Germany: Bundesliga
1 - 1
(1 - 0)
Hertha BSC
Mainz 05
J. Ngankam (18)
L. Ajorque (57)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Schwarz speaks on six-striker race for the starting XI: "We need the competition."

With both Wilfried Kanga and Stevan Jovetic returning from injury, Hertha BSC trainer Sandro Schwarz spoke on his suddenly expanded options on the top attacking axis during a Thursday presser. 
Sandro Schwarz's new 3-5-2 system has room for two lead strikers up top. After rolling with Jessic Ngankam and Florian Niederlechner in the first three matches since the system debuted, the Hertha trainer opted re-insert Dodi Lukebakio back in the XI in Ngankam's place this past weekend. While the team managed little in what was a thorough shellacking at the hands of Leverkusen on Sunday, Lukebakio did manage to convert from the spot for the fourth time this season in the 1-4 loss.

Lukebakio's perfect record on penalties actually gives the Belgian international 10 league goals on the season. Hard as is may be to believe, the 25-year-old is alive in the "race for the golden cannon". Lukebakio is currently tied with Bayern's Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in seventh place in the Bundesliga's scoring chart. Schwarz may be tempted to let Lukebakio start again this weekend, but also has more options in the form of returning former lead strikers Stevan Jovetic and Wilfried Kanga.

Jovetic finally made his comeback off the bench against Augsburg on matchday 22. An injury incurred on matchday 12 had kept the Montenegrin sidelined since late October. Jovetic was Hertha's leading scorer last year with six goals. Wilfried Kanga - out of action since the third game back after the winter World Cup break (matchday 18) should also be ready for action this weekend. Though Kanga has often disappointed as a starting center-forward this season, the Ivorian has netted two league goals.

"He's made a very, very good impression this week of training," Schwarz said of Kanga, "He'll definitely be in the squad against Mainz. We'll see if it's enough for the starting XI."

The Charlottenburger gaffer understandably wished to play his choice of striker in the coming weekend encounter close to the vest. In truth, the coach has even a sixth option after Niederlechner, Lukebakio, Ngankam, Jovetic, and Kanga. Hertha academy man Derry Scherhant - a player Schwarz has expressed great admiration for - can play up top as well.

"The competitive situation in the striking corps is good," Schwarz noted at the presser, "We need it. Performance is a deciding factor. So too is the matchplan."

Euro 2024

Bundesliga End of Season Awards

Long reads

Exclusive interviews

Team News