Previews: Hertha eyes firmly on prize

BERLIN - Bundesliga leaders Hertha Berlin are keeping their eyes firmly fixed on the prize of a first title since 1931, while trying not to get distracted by the realisation that their potent strikeforce could soon be dismantled.

Marko Pantelic and Andriy Voronin have combined for 16 goals this season to give Hertha a healthy four-point lead heading into Saturday's home game against Bayer Leverkusen, but both men could well be plying their trade elsewhere by the next campaign.

Pantelic looks set to leave at the end of the season, the Serb's prickly ties with coach Lucien Favre seemingly strained beyond repair, while Voronin's sale price continues to rise with every goal he scores.

The Ukrainian, on loan from Liverpool until the end of the season, has admitted he would like to remain in the German capital but wants his future at the club to be decided by the end of this month.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding their futures, both men have been in remarkable form in Hertha's title push with Pantelic netting almost every time he is not out injured and Voronin grabbing seven goals in the last five matches.

"We play as a team," Voronin told reporters. "I get the passes that I need from my team mates, I make the goals but football is a team game."


Experienced defender Josip Simunic has often stated a desire to play in the English Premier League, but the anchor of Hertha's solid rearguard admits that for now, the Bundesliga side comes first.

"I don't know if this dream is over but I am a Hertha player at the moment and I only focus on the next game and that is against Leverkusen," the 31-year-old Croat told German broadcaster DSF this week.

Leverkusen play some sparkling soccer but have struggled for consistency and are desperate for a win after picking up only one point in their last three matches to drop to seventh place.

Hertha are assured top spot for at least another week but champions Bayern, in second place, want to shake off Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim and Hamburg, all on 42 points, as they begin what they hope will be their ascent to the top with a visit to Bochum.

"We finally want to go top of the table," said Bayern coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who has not seen his team lead the standings since he took over last year.

Bayern stormed into the Champions League quarter-finals with a record 12-1 aggregate win against Sporting on Tuesday, but their Bundesliga form is far less impressive and Bochum can take heart from a 3-3 draw in Munich last October.

Wolfsburg welcome Schalke, who are in the midst of an extended crisis after sacking manager Andreas Mueller, and are looking to make it six wins out of six.

Hoffenheim, again without injured striker Chinedu Obasi, travel to Eintracht Frankfurt, while Hamburg take on relegation-threatened Energie Cottbus.