In a league where FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund are again expected to battle for the title alone, gaining early momentum and utilising the enthusiasm of a huge fan base that craves Bundesliga football could help Hertha BSC Berlin stand out from the rest.
Hertha, regular participants in UEFA competition over the last decade or so, are back among the German elite. Relegated from the top flight twice since 2009, the club returned as second-tier champions on each occasion, most recently last May.
Supporters in the German capital expected nothing less, though, and the pressure is still on Jos Luhukay's team going into the 2013/14 campaign. "We have to stay up this year and get established in the Bundesliga again," said the coach. "Last year, all of us at Hertha regained some credibility. Now it is very important to focus on our style of football so we can be successful again this season."
None of Hertha's key men have left a squad boasting plenty of Bundesliga experience as well as some talented youngsters. They may be short of major stars, but they have one of the most underrated coaches in Germany. Stepping into the limelight as Jupp Heynckes' successor at VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2007, Luhukay has since led the Foals, FC Augsburg and now Hertha to Bundesliga promotion.
The Dutch trainer stands for hard work and discipline, and has a reputation for being able to build good sides on limited financial means. He is also not one to rest on past achievements. "Last year was fantastic, but we're heading into a new season and need to face this challenge – what happened in the past doesn't matter any more," he said.
That will be music to the ears of Hertha's demanding fans, who last term watched the Alte Dame (Old Lady) collect the most points ever – 76 – for a 2. Bundesliga campaign. However, the fact Hertha required a last-minute goal in extra time to beat fourth-division VfR Neumünster in the German Cup first round last weekend indicates there is still work to do.
"Of course there is pressure," said newly installed captain Fabian Lustenberger, "but our pre-season has been very good and we've put in weeks of hard work. I'm quite optimistic."
On Saturday, Hertha open at home to Eintracht Frankfurt, coincidentally a club who last season qualified for the UEFA Europa League in their first year after promotion. Could it be the first step towards a promising Hertha team replicating the achievement?
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.