The Cup for All
DFB German Cup Preview
August 17 – After the beginning of the Bundesliga second division season, Germany is ready to welcome to the stage the competition that gives a chance to every team to shine. The first round of the DFB Pokal brings together all the winners of the Regional Cup Competitions, four of the best third league teams and the 36 clubs of the first two leagues. Unlike in England, in Germany the big guns come in the competition at the first call, getting a chance to meet teams which will celebrate their simple presence at this stage.
Thirty-two games are to be played in this first round and while some fixtures might suggest a walkthrough, some might bring some major surprises. This round is a trickiest one as some opponents are unknown, judging them based on their league can potentially turn into a costly error. The small teams will look to use the home advantage, the crowd enthusiasm and their will to match-up to Germany’s best, something that might be too much for the “favourites”.
The party starts on Friday, three games giving the start of this first round of the Cup. Two familiar faces of the 2.Bundesliga and one top flight team are stepping on the stage, all three travelling to Regionalliga (fourth tier) in search of a good win. FC Augsburg will be for sure considered a favourite, SV Wilhelshaven knowing that the only first league team to change the manager this summer is still a strong side. For the Bavarians, as for all the Bundesliga teams, this is the first real test of the season, one which they have to pass if they want to keep the optimism up for the season about to start.
Saturday is the day when the Cup holders are coming in the spotlight, Borussia Dortmund travelling to FC Oberneuland hoping to erase the disappointing defeat in the Supercup last weekend. Jürgen Klopp’s men are trying to build up their fitness knowing that they will have to be even stronger than last year, if they want a better display in the Champions League.
At the same time, one of the most awaited games is also taking place, a game which might spark a big upset. Newly relegated 1.FC Cologne are visiting Bavaria to meet a team which is dreaming that this season they will move up to the 2.Bundesliga, SpVgg Unterhaching. The hosts are off to a fantastic start in the third league, winning four and drawing one in five games, climbing to the first place in the league, while their visitors are still shocked with their modest start in the second league. The Billygoats only got one point in two games, not showing any signs of improvement to their performance last year, which saw them under the line and down a league. It`s one of these fixtures that are bound to provide real entertainment and we can only hope it’s going to live up to the expectations.
VfB Stuttgart, SC Freiburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach or Bayer Leverkusen are also searching for a place in the second round on Saturday, but some eyes will be focused on VfL Wolfsburg’s tie with FC Schöneberg, a first chance to see in action Felix Magath’s new bets for the season. The Wolves have been very active on the market this summer and now they want to see the results, even if one of the great prospects of the new season will be out, Czech midfielder Vaclav Pilar picking up an injury in his country’s friendly with Ukraine, surgery being in sight for the unfortunate player. Even so, Naldo, Emanuel Pogatetz, Ivica Olic or Diego are set for the first game of the season, hoping to send a strong message of things to come.
Another set of eyes would move from the former champions, to another White-Green team, newly promoted SpVgg Greuther Fürth. The Bavarians have a bad recent memory of this competition, their dream of a final in Berlin being ended just seconds before a penalty shoot-out by Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gündogan. Now everything is back to zero and the hopes are back up but they have to be aware of the Cup record of their opponents, Kickers Offenbach managing to knock out the same Dortmund two seasons ago, when the Black-Yellows went on to win the league title. So, even if they started bad the season in the third league, Kickers are not to be underestimated.
Sunday is even busier and even rougher, as some former first league usuals are making their appearances hoping to chop some big heads. While Arminia Bielefeld and Hansa Rostock are facing the 2.Bundesliga faces of SC Paderborn and 1.FC Kaiserslautern, Karlsruher SC is facing a big gun, Hamburger SV. The northerners were close to a drama last season, their exclusive life in the top flight being in jeopardy in many moments, but this new season the expectations are back high again, and Thorsten Fink’s men have to deliver. A bad start and he could attract the pressure of the fans and press straight away, something that no manager wants. On the other hand, Karlsruhe has had a horrible start in the third tier, failing to get a win in five outings, but they know that if they can get such a big win, they might turn the boat around.
Seven other first league teams are playing on Sunday, probably the hardest game being set for Eintracht Frankfurt, Armin Veh’s boys travelling to Aue to meet FC Erzgebirge in a replay of the two battles carried last season in the second tier. Fortuna Dusseldorf might also have to sweat a bit in their game against Wacker Burghausen, Schalke 04 being on the same mission against 1.FC Saarbücken. There is going to be also a 2.Bundesliga battle, VfR Aalen being drawn to face FC Ingolstadt in one of the most equal games of the round, while 1860 are looking to avoid the emotions that they had last year in the same round, when they meet fifth league FC Hennef 05.
Monday the curtain is drawn on this first round, but it is done in style. Two 2.Bundesliga teams are going head to head again, Energie Cottbus looking to impose a first defeat in the new season to SV Sandhausen. 1. FC Union Berlin travel to Essen hoping that their “Rot-Weiss” will be the one glowing in the end, and not the one of the hosts. Toughest game to organize will be neighbour derby between Chemnitzer FC and Dynamo Dresden, the two eastern clubs sharing quite a big rivalry, something that for sure we will see in the stadium. Hopefully, nothing will go to wild and the passion will be contained on the pitch, where one of them will have to accept a bitter defeat.
Last fixture of this round, could be also the highlight of the stage. Left at the very end, FC Bayern München joins the competition in front of a difficult opponent, in a Bavarian Derby that promises to be quite interesting. SSV Jahn Regensburg is the team in the way of The Reds, but it will not be the easiest task for Jupp Heyenckes and his men. The Rothosen have started well the season in the second league, already having a taste of München opponents, as they travelled to meet TSV 1860 in their season opener, which in the end they lost, despite showing some good football. A repeat of the good display in that game might not be enough to defeat a giant like Bayern but it would for sure give FCB a run for their money. It might be a good chance for Mario Mandzukic to add up to the advantage that he holds over injured Mario Gomez in the battle for the first 11, Claudio Pizarro hoping he could get his season under way and show that he’s not going to be the third option in the squad.
Surprises are possible in any of these fixtures, and we can expect some big names live dangerous this weekend, last year four top flight clubs being victims of the underdogs in the first round. This year all of them are hoping to avoid the humiliating situation, but how many of them will escape the wrath of the smaller teams, hungry for big stage success?