This weekend, the U19s will again make the trip to Berlin. This time not to Potsdam, but to Charlottenburg, and the Olympic Park: Borussia Dortmund's U19s are aiming for a successful title defence against Hertha Berlin in the play-off final of the U19s German Championship on Sunday. Kick-off is at 13:00 CET and the game will be shown live on Sky (Germany). "That is our goal. We want to crown our extraordinary season with this title," said head coach Mike Tullberg.

The team have sat down together and analysed the 3-1 defeat to VfB Stuttgart in the DFB-Pokal final in great detail. "Our problem was the 20 to 25 minutes after we went 1-0 down. We tried too much individually and did not work as a team. Teamwork was and still is our greatest strength," said Mike Tullberg, looking back at the game critically, and added: "I praised the team for their performance in the second half. We had more chances than in the 5-1 play-off semi-final win against Schalke, but we didn't take them. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we would have forced extra time if it hadn't been for the incorrect decision to give them a penalty. But that too is part of football, and we should learn from this defeat."

The impressive winning streak in domestic competitions and the outstanding performances in the UEFA Youth League had seen the Black and Yellows billed as the favourites and heralded as the German "über-team". BVB were expected to become the first team to claim the historic double by winning the U19s DFB-Pokal and the league title. Until then, they had overcome all challengers calmly and collectedly, so for the first time, the young stars felt the psychological pressure resulting from the great expectations placed upon them before the final in Potsdam. This meant that some players felt they were being particularly held responsible and ultimately succumbed to the pressure.

Mike Tullberg concluded: "We have to accept that we can't dominate every opponent over 90 minutes. We will not be able to dominate Hertha Berlin either, and we will be prepared for that." The side from Berlin, German champions in 2018, qualified for the play-offs as champions of the Bundesliga North/Northeast. They came through their regional league with 44 points, having scored the most goals (46) and suffered only two defeats. In the semi-finals, Hertha prevailed quite comfortably against South champions FC Augsburg. They followed up a 3-1 win in the first leg with a 2-0 victory in the stadium which will host the final.

"Mature" opposition

"Hertha have outstanding individual players, the team plays in a robust and mature manner," said Mike Tullberg, describing the opponent's approach. Berlin's full-back Julian Eitschberger recently saw first team action. Striker Luca Wollschläger was even in the starting line-up in the first leg of the relegation play-off against Hamburg. Tony Rölke and Anton Kade are part of the Germany U19 national team. The final will be the last game that coach Michael Hartmann will take charge of Berlin, having guided the side from Berlin to the play-off finals, where they beat Schalke 3-1 in the final. Following this year's final, Hartmann will move to Bayern Munich for the new season. He expects there to be "little between the sides" in the final against the BVB. 

Mike Tullberg will be preparing his team with detailed tactics for beating Berlin, but he is highlighting the team's own strengths above all: "We can go on to the pitch with great confidence." Because the Black and Yellows know that they are able to bring any opponent to their knees – when they play as a cohesive and determined unit. There will not be a repeat of the situation in Potsdam.

Eight out of nine wins in play-off finals

BVB have contested nine league play-off finals in the past. From 1994 to 1998, they won five German championships in a row. Their only loss came in the 2009 final, where they were beaten 2-1 by a Mainz 05 side coached by a certain Thomas Tuchel. BVB won the trophy in 2016 (5-3 against TSG Hoffenheim in Sinsheim), 2017 (8-7 on penalties in front of 33,000 spectators in Dortmund) and 2019 (5-3 in Großaspach against VfB Stuttgart, having trailed 3-1 at the break). 

In that game, which Stuttgart clearly dominated until half-time, they showed exactly what Mike Tullberg is expecting from his team on Sunday: "During difficult periods, we have to stand together." 

Wilfried Wittke