Kevin Oblocki previews Wednesday’s four DFB Pokal matchups and fearlessly predicts their outcomes (he picked all four winners of Tuesday’s encounters).
VfB Stuttgart vs Hamburger SV
Hamburger SV are the only team to have never been relegated from the German top-tier since the Bundesliga’s birth in 1963. Several weeks into the current campaign, it looked highly likely that HSV would finally be relegated after their record 48th year in the Bundesliga. After going winless in the opening six matches, HSV’s first win of the season came in Stuttgart. After going down 1-0 at halftime, Hamburg responded with two 2nd half goals to earn all three points and can be seen as the HSV’s turning point in the season. Stuttgart is out for revenge after the embarrassing loss and they have a great chance to inject revenge on the wavering HSV side Wednesday. A loss for Hamburg would dash any chances of silverware for them this season. The same could be said for VFB Stuttgart who only have three more points than their 3rd round DFB Pokal opponents.
Stuttgart may be the 2007 Bundesliga Champions but in the past ten matches between the two sides, Hamburg have proved to be the better side winning seven of those meetings. The teams have combined for slightly more than three goals per match so I expect to see three goals in this match and no extra time. I predict a motivated Stuttgart side to run HSV into the ground at the Mercedes- Benz Arena and end their mediocre year of 2011 on a good note.
Stuttgart 3 HSV 0
Hertha BSC Berlin vs 1. FC Kaiserslautern
In case you have been wrapping too many gifts such as the Special Edition Schalke 04 Play Station controller or the VFL Wolfsburg ashtray, you may have missed the fact that Hertha sacked their coach Markus Babbel when a rift between himself and the board erupted after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim. Getting back to business, this has to be one of the most balanced matches of the round. Both teams have involved in a high number of drawn matches thus far this season, which has made for vanilla entertainment. The teams have only met each other once in the past five years which is hard to believe since both teams have fluctuated so much between the 1st and 2nd division in Germany. The last meeting between these two sides ended 1-1. Expect to see another low scoring affair Wednesday.
Kaiserslautern has scored only 13 goals in the Bundesliga so far, the league’s lowest total. Their struggle to score has severely hurt them, and explains why the team is in the relegation zone. While their opponents from the German capital may not be in the same situation, they are only two points ahead of the Red Devils. Markus Babbel appeared to be doing a good job for Hertha Berlin and it will interesting to see how the team responds to the shocking news that came out Sunday evening. This is a tough match to predict. I can see both teams playing it safe but Kaiserslautern triumphing after 90 minutes.
Hertha 0 Kaiserslautern 1
Holstein Kiel vs 1. FSV Mainz
The only remaining team outside of the first two divisions in the tournament is Holstein Kiel. The team better known as “the Storks” due to their red socks, plays in Germany’s Regionalliga Nord (4th division- yes the 4th division not the third like I said yesterday). Kiel is 2nd in the league behind Red Bull’s backed Leipzig and has scored more goals than any other team in the league. Some of the team’s notable players include former Hannover youth product Sofien Chahed and team captain Christian Juergensen. The team’s top scorers in the league are Jaroslaw Lindner and Marc Heider. Both have notched an impressive eight goals apiece and are a big part of the team’s strength thus far. A defeat of Bundesliga side Mainz would obviously be the biggest scalp taken by Kiel this season.
Mainz shouldn’t be overlooked because of their 14th place position in the Bundesliga. They are a difficult team to play against and won’t be intimidated by meager opponents. If you remember last year at this time, Mainz were in flying form taking the league completely by surprise. Since the losses of national team forward Andre Schuerrle and Schalke midfielder Lewis Holtby, things have not been the same for the team playing out of the brand new Coface Arena. Mainz has struggled to score goals and will likely be battling in the annual relegation dogfight in the Bundesliga. This match will be very close and I think Kiel will advance on penalties.
Holstein Kiel 0 Mainz 0 (Holstein Kiel advance on penalties)
Borussia Monchengladbach vs Schalke 04
For me the most exciting matchup of the round is that featuring DFB Pokal holders Schalke against Borussia Monchengladbach. Borussia Park will be on fire as two of the league’s hottest teams, boasting some of the league’s top talents square off with a spot in the quarterfinals awaiting the winner. Schalke boast the tournament’s leading goal scorer, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who has knocked in five Pokal goals and has been in fine form in all competitions this season. For the Foals, they have arguably the best player in Germany at the moment Marco Reus. The 22-year-old is lifting eyebrows and turning heads across the globe being seen as one of Germany’s top upcoming talents.
Schalke 04 has won their last five matches in all competitions including two Europa League wins and the 5-0 demolishing of Werder Bremen. If you’re a Gladbach supporter, Santa Klaas (Jan Huntelaar) and the Schalke sleigh are bringing you a nice lump of coal for the holidays as they look to advance and compete for their sixth Cup title.
Monchengladbach 1 Schalke 4
***To all readers of the Bundesliga Fanatic, I would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a smashing new year!!! Keep the ball rolling.***
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