Last Step Before Berlin


Posted by Radu M. Pandea

Posted in Bundesliga / Football


DFB German Cup Preview

March 19 – One of the biggest questions of the year will be answered this week, when the semifinals of the German Cup take place. There are four teams dreaming to book their tickets to Berlin but only two of them will get through, and now is the time to settle who will that be. The first three teams are from the first league plus the top team of the second league are fighting in two intriguing fixtures which for sure will spark some fabulous football.

First against First

On Tuesday there is a battle of the two worlds of German football, when the reigning champions and the current leaders of the Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund, will travel to the top team in the Bundesliga’s second division, SpVgg Greuther Fürth. For some this might be a one-sided affair, but indications are that it won’t be.

Anyone who saw the Bavarian team in the second league this season will tell you that they have a fabulous attack and the best defence in the league, conceding only 21 goals this season, which might also tell you enough why they are close to a promotion back to the first league, for which they have waited almost 50 years. Fürth has earned their place in the semis, they humiliated Paderborn, one of the stronger sides of the second league, won the local derby against 1.FC Nürnberg, and then defeating TSG Hoffenheim. The last two wins coming against first league teams on the road.

For coach Mike Büskens this game might be even more special, as he played eleven years for Dortmund’s biggest rivals, FC Schalke 04, a period where he found himself playing many legendary derbies against the Black-Yellows.

Borussia Dortmund needs no introduction, and for sure Fürth are aware of the task that lies in front of them if they want to reach the final. Jürgen Klopp’s men are undefeated in their last 20 games in the league, with a five point advantage over Bayern München. They are on track for a second consecutive title, something that they haven’t achieved since the mid 90’s.

Winning the cup is an important objective that Klopp wants to fulfil to compensate for their poor Champions League run. Dortmund isn’t in the best form of the season at the moment, their game being a bit shaky at times, even if they have avoided any big upsets. For their opponents, they may learn something from Dortmund’s away draw at Augsburg how to close the spaces for players like Shinji Kagawa or Robert Lewandowski, but for sure Klopp has also learned his mistakes from that game and will be more prepared for this one.

If Dortmund won’t underestimate their opponents, and if Fürth will live up to this difficult challenge, we might be in for a tight game. The champions are for sure favourites to go through but the hosts won’t go down without a fight, a factor that will be key for Fürth to level the differences in talent which separates them from Dortmund.

A strong opponent after three blowouts

Bayern München recovered their form and managed a fantastic performance in the last three games, scoring 20 goals and sparking fear for their opponents. With Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben revving the engine into powerboost mode, the Reds are hoping now that they can keep things in this gear to have a shot at the treble. In the last weeks, Jupp Heynckes has had to adjust his team to play without Bastian Schweinsteiger, a difficult task that almost failed at the end of the first half of the season, but it seems like now everything is in place.

Toni Kroos is finally feeling confident next to a different defensive midfield partner. With the main problems solved, Bayern is clearly building up momentum for the battles on all three fronts, but this fixture can bring the first blow. The Bavarians might have set records in their last three games but they were also up against teams which didn’t really put up a fight against them, the impressive wins coming solely based on the attacking brilliance that Bayern has in the squad. Their opponents this week are in the middle of a fantastic season, playing clean offensive football and FCB knows that very well, still suffering from the two games against Lucien Favre’s men.

Borussia Mönchengladbach delivered two heavy punches to Bayern this season.  Both games were a nightmare for FCB, especially for their goalkeeper.  Manuel Neuer made two silly errors to “inspire” the Foals for the wins. It was 1-0 in the Allianz Arena to open the season and 3-1 in the first match after the winter break.  The last match was in Borussia Park, the stadium that will host this third meeting.

Now Lucien Favre’s tactical inspiration has to come in hand again, if he wants his team to go through to a much awaited Cup final. His team was in a slump before the weekend, not having managed a win in three games, a series which eliminated them from the title race. But his players brought this downfall to an end by winning the last game, 2-1 away at Leverkusen.

Marco Reus shined again, scoring and providing the assist for the decisive goal by Igor de Camargo. This result almost ensures Gladbach are in for a Champions League berth for next season, either directly into the group stage or a qualification playoff spot.  With Patrick Hermann back in the squad and Reus returning to fitness, BMG are recovering their strength, ready to provide again with some tight and steady defending and quick intelligent attacking, the keys of their previous two wins against Bayern.

Two eagerly awaited battles lie in front of us, the fates of the clubs to be decided after these two games. A shocking exit from the Cup after such a long way can prove to be a fatal blow for the morale needed for the end of the season, so for sure there will be two battles taken to the death. Let’s see who will survive this.

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