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DFB-Pokal: Third-Tier Giant Slayers Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

Defying the DFB-Pokal odds, third-tier Saarbrucken are just inches away from winning the German Cup. Reaching the semifinal round is already quite a Cinderella story; dare I say it even twilights Leverkusen’s flawless campaign?

Of course, head coach Rudiger Ziehl is more than confident that his inspired club will defy the DFB-Pokal 2024 odds and exceed all expectations in their upcoming semifinal tie against Kaiserslautern.

If you ask this SBOTOP writer, Saarbrucken cruising past Kaiserslautern won’t be that lofty an ask, especially after demolishing German giants like Mgladbach, Frankfurt, and even the mighty Bayern Munich themselves to rightfully claim their spot in the last four of the DFB-Pokal.

“Winning against Bayern Munich as Saarbrucken, a third-league team, it was a big, great party in the whole city.” Saarbrucken boss Rudiger Ziehl exclaimed. “Everybody knows in a normal game, for sure Bayern win. But I told the team we will have our moments; we have to defend, fight, run like crazy and maybe there’s a little, little chance.”

Don’t get it twisted, their bitter rivals Kaiserslautern are worthy adversaries for the giant killers, but luckily for Saarbrucken, they’ll have the support of 16,000 strong at Ludwigsparkstadion when they host their rivals for their semifinal tie.

Ludwigsparkstadion may not hold as much capacity as compared to, let’s say, Allianz Arena, which can accommodate 70,000 fans, but what Ludwigsparkstadion lacks in size, it makes up for hostility and pride.

You feel it when you come to the stadium. More than a normal league game. The stadium is full one and a half hours before. When you warm up, it’s a totally different atmosphere. During the game, every duel you win, every good action, they’re celebrating.” Ziehl says.

Even though Saarbrucken haven’t tasted the competition of the Bundesliga for more than three decades, their historic run in the DFB-Pokal should garner the respect of every German fan and outfit in the nation.

Despite Leverkusen featuring on the other semifinal marquee, it seems like the matchup between Saarbrucken and Kaiserslautern is the one the football world has its eyes glued on.


Dusseldorf get the short end of the stick

Only Bundesliga favourites Leverkusen are left as the lone top-flight outfit in the running to claim the DFB-Pokal title this season. Xabi and his men are on pace to continue their imperious season in all competitions as they advanced to the semis of the German Cup by defeating Paderborn, Sandhausen, Ottensen, and Stuttgart. They’ll surely pose as the favourites up until their run in the DFB-Pokal.

Xabi Alonso aims to secure their spot for finals in their upcoming DFB-Pokal semi finals match against Dusseldorf
Bayer Leverkusen manager Xabi Alonso during their Bundesliga match against Mainz

Moral is high at BayArena, as Leverkusen boss and maestro, Xabi Alonso, recently announced that he will be staying with his Die Werkself beyond the 2023–24 season. This announcement came at a pivotal moment for the club, as they are now in the final stages of closing out their campaigns and ending their ‘Neverkusen’ curse.

“I wanted to use that time in the international break and take a decision, and last week I had a very good meeting with Simon [Rolfes, managing director] and Fernando [Carro, CEO] and informed them of my decision to continue being coach of Bayer Leverkusen,” Alonso stated.

Die Werkself are on pace to clinch the Bundesliga title with a massive 13-point lead over Bayern Munich, and they’re firmly on course to end up with a domestic double or even a continental treble.

Another reason why Leverkusen are in prime position to advance to the final is that Xabi Alonso has recently reported that his ace, Victor Boniface, should be available for their DFB-Pokal clash against Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Boniface’s return to the lineup will further bolster an already potent Leverkusen offence. The 23-year-old striker boasts himself as the top scorer of Die Werkself this season, with 16 goals under his belt. His return not only buffs Leverkusen garnering winning DFB-Pokal 2024 results, but also in their pivotal battles in the Europa League and the German top flight to boot.

The club that will be aiming for a semi-final upset are Düsseldorf. The second-tier team got the short end of the semifinal draw, having to face Leverkusen after their quarterfinal thriller against St. Pauli that was determined via penalties.

Dusseldorf are having quite the run themselves, besting the likes of Illertissen, Unterhaching, Magdeburg, and most recently, St. Pauli. All challenging foes, to their respect, but Leverkusen will definitely be their biggest adversary in their DFB-Pokal campaign thus far.

It doesn’t help their cause that the semifinal bout will be held in front of 30,000 roaring Leverkusen fans at BayArena.

Dusseldorf’s 46 points in the 2. Bundesliga place themselves at the third spot in the league standings, but they haven’t given up hope of reuniting with their local rivals Leverkusen in the Bundesliga next season.


 

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