PREVIEW | DFB Pokal semi-finals – Holstein Kiel look to upset Borussia Dortmund & will Julian Nagelsmann leave RB Leipzig with their maiden major trophy

Against tradition, the DFB Pokal semi-finals will take place this Friday and Saturday instead of during the week, with the final to be played next Thursday. As such, the Bundesliga will be taking a break – unless you’re Hertha Berlin, of course. Still, we have two big cup games to look forward to.

Friday, 20.30: Werder Bremen vs RB Leipzig

Coming into this clash, Bremen would be forgiven for having their minds elsewhere. Florian Kohfeldt’s men have lost their last seven games in the Bundesliga, an unwanted club record and are just one point clear of Köln in the relegation play-off spot. Kohfeldt has recently survived an “analysis” from sporting director Frank Baumann and the board of directors – he holds on to his job for now, but he is far from out of the woods.

Still, Die Werderaner have a huge history to respect in the Pokal. Only Bayern have won this competition more times than Werder, whose last success came in 2009. Incidentally, that was the year during which their opponents on Friday were founded. RB Leipzig are still waiting for their maiden major trophy.

Leading Leipzig to a first cup triumph could well be Julian Nagelsmann’s final act at the club. After much speculation, it was confirmed on Monday that the 33-year-old will join Bayern Munich at the end of the season. Leipzig have previously been close to success without really threatening to claim it – in the 2019 Pokal final, they were hammered 3-0 by Bayern, while they have not finished less than 12 points behind Munich in any Bundesliga season prior to this one. With the Bavarians now out of the equation, Nagelsmann has his best chance yet of getting his hands on some silverware.

As such, Leipzig are expected to take up their place in the final in Berlin. In some ways, though, this could be the perfect distraction for Bremen. It promises to be an intriguing match-up.

Saturday, 20.30: Borussia Dortmund vs Holstein Kiel

When Kiel were drawn against Dortmund after easily defeating Rot-Weiss Essen, they would have been hoping for far better preparations than what has since unfolded. They had been chasing promotion to the Bundesliga but, although that remains a possibility, they are in the middle of a run of six games in 16 days following a coronavirus outbreak amongst the squad. That led to three postponed matches and meant they were unable to train – as if the task facing them in Dortmund wasn’t already difficult enough.

Die Schwarzgelben, meanwhile, are enjoying something of a renaissance. It has been a difficult campaign for BVB – they are nowhere near their goal of fighting for the title, and their poor form earlier in the season led to Edin Terzic’s interim appointment after Lucien Favre was sacked. Still, they have won their last four Bundesliga matches, including against fellow Champions League chasers Wolfsburg last weekend. As it stands, they are just one point behind fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt with three matches remaining and, with an in-form Erling Haaland and fit-again Jadon Sancho, they will fancy their chances of a top-four finish.

With the quality at their disposal, it is no surprise they are expected to progress here. However, Kiel remain an uncomfortable proposition. After all, they knocked out Bayern Munich in the second round this season with an impressive display, and despite their packed schedule, their hopes of promotion are in their own hands. Dortmund will have to break down the second tier’s best defence if they want to go through – Kiel have shipped just 27 goals in their 28 matches, at least eight less than any other side. With Marco Rose soon to come in, though, Terzic will want to hand over the reins on a high, both in the Bundesliga and the cup.

Jon Radcliffe

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