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Norwich City supporters travelling to Austria will hope to get a first glimpse of Grant Holt in action against Hertha Berlin in Gleisdorf this evening since he agreed a new deal over the summer. Picture: Action Images / Paul Childs.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Former Champions League contenders Hertha Berlin are also gearing up for the new league campaign with a fresh face at the helm.
Dutchman Jos Luhukay replaced Greece’s Euro 2004 winning manager Otto Rehhagel in May after the ‘Blue-Whites’ lost a controversial Bundesliga relegation play-off 4-3 on aggregate to Fortuna Dusseldorf. Berlin club officials failed with a judicial hearing that lasted more than ten hours to overturn the second leg 2-2 result in Dusseldorf which condemned them to Bundesliga Two for the forthcoming campaign.
The match was abandoned with less than two minutes of normal time remaining following a pitch invasion from the jubilant home fans. Play eventually restarted more than 20 minutes later before an ugly brawl after the final whistle which ended with Hertha’s Georgian international defender Levan Kobiashvili banned from competitive football for the rest of 2012 for allegedly striking experienced Fifa referee Wolfgang Stark.
Luhukay has been entrusted with reviving the fortunes of the Berliners, who have suffered two relegations from the top flight in the past three seasons. The 49-year-old guided FC Augsburg to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history in 2011 before keeping them in the top tier last year prior to resigning a week after the season ended.
Luhukay is portrayed as an adventurous, attacking coach and the Dutchman is reportedly in the market for extra firepower this summer with former Chelsea youngster Ben Sahar and Mainz forward Sami Allagui linked with moves to the capital club. Berlin’s star player, the Brazilian playmaker Raffael, is a seven million Euro target for Italian outfit Napoli and Dynamo Kiev. The 27-year-old was not involved in Berlin’s recent 4-0 friendly win over Hannover 96 and is not expected to feature against the Canaries.
Tunisian international Anis Ben-Hatira – who scored in the play-off defeat – has given Berlin a boost by pledging his future to the club when he signed an improved contract earlier this month.
The German side travelled to Austria on Friday ahead of games against the Canaries and an Austrian second division side next week before a prestige pre-season friendly against Italian heavyweights Juventus. The two-time German champions have based themselves to the east of Gleisdorf in Stegersbach, using the same hotel as the Austrian national squad used for Euro 2008. The club was founded in 1892 and first played home games in the 77,000 capacity Olympic Stadium back in 1963 when the Bundesliga was formed.