DFB Pokal Second Round: Five to Watch

The second round of the DFB Pokal provides some midweek action with 32 team still in the competition and dreaming of progressing further towards the May final in Berlin. Sixteen ties take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, so we’ve grabbed the chance to take a closer look at five particularly interesting match-ups.

Borussia Dortmund v Union Berlin (Wednesday 18:30 CET)

It is the meeting of Germany’s only unbeaten sides (in the top three tiers) as Bundesliga pace-setters Borussia Dortmund host 2.Bundesliga’s Union Berlin four days after they were held to a 2-2 draw against Hertha Berlin in the league.

Lucien Favre’s side have been in supreme attacking form this season averaging 3.2 goals per game in the league and showing early signs that they may be a genuine contender to stop Bayern running away with yet another Bundesliga title. They were however a little lucky to survive the first round of the Pokal needing a 95th minute equaliser to take Greuther Fürth to extra-time and then a 121st minute winner to avoid penalties.

Union’s 0-0 draw on Sunday at home to Dynamo Dresden kept them within two points of leaders Köln and Hamburger SV, but it was their seventh draw from their eleven league matches this season.

Urs Fischer’s side have the best defensive record in 2.Bundesliga and that back line will be severely tested at the Signal Iduna Park against the top flights top scorers. The only previous meeting between the two was also in the DFB Pokal two years ago when BVB needed a penalty shoot-out to progress after a 1-1 draw.

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Hannover v VfL Wolfsburg (Tuesday 18:30 CET)

A Niedersachsen derby in the second round of the Cup gives both Hannover and Wolfsburg the chance to not only progress, but put one over on their local rivals. Although Eintracht Braunschweig are Hannover’s main foes in the region, there will be little love lost when die Wölfe arrive on Tuesday.

The clash also gives Andre Breitenreiter’s side the chance for revenge after Wolfsburg knocked them out of last season’s competition at the same stage with a 1-0 win at the Volkswagen Arena. That evening saw a Felix Uduokhai goal clinch the win. The only other Pokal meeting between the two sides came in 1987 with Wolfsburg once again the victors. Back then VfL were in the Oberliga Nord, while Hannover were Bundesliga, so the 3-0 win in the first round was quite the giant-killing.

The pressure is on the home side after just one Bundesliga win from their opening nine games with a home defeat at home to Augsburg the latest setback. Wolfsburg overcame Fortuna Düsseldorf on the road this past weekend taking them to 10th in the table.

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Borussia Mönchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen (Wednesday 20:45 CET)

The fortunes of Gladbach and Leverkusen could not have been more polarised in the opening weeks of the season, although that was turned on its head somewhat this past weekend.

The high-flying Foals, who had conquered Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena and moved to third in the table, came unstuck on Friday as they went down to a 3-1 defeat at Freiburg. Leverkusen, on the other hand, produced their best display of the season beating Werder 6-2 to end their run of three games without a win and ease the pressure on under-fire coach Heiko Herrlich.

Gladbach (three times Pokal winners) have home advantage and have already beaten the Werkself this season, but will have the memory of last season’s 5-1 defeat at the Borussia Park in the forefront of their minds- particularly after seeing Leverkusen’s display against Bremen.

Games between the two rivals are always hard-fought affairs with plenty of passion from the fans, but the added spice of the Pokal will lend Wednesday’s clash an extra layer. The two sides also met in the Pokal last season with a Leon Bailey goal enough to see Leverkusen through.

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SSV Ulm 1846 Fußball v Fortuna Düsseldorf (Tuesday 18:30 CET)

Having produced the giant-killing of the first round by knocking out holders Eintracht Frankfurt, Ulm are now turning their attentions to another potential Bundesliga scalp as they host Fortuna Düsseldorf.

The Regionalliga Südwest side face their top flight opponents at a time when self-confidence is not at its optimum for Friedhelm Funkel’s side. Another defeat at the weekend means Fortuna are bottom of the table and experiencing a hard time of things in the top tier. The tricky trip to the Donaustadion on Tuesday provides the potential for yet more woe to be heaped on them.

Ulm will however be without their ‘Man of the Match’ from the Frankfurt victory with striker Steffen Kienle out with a torn cruciate ligament.

The two sides have met twice in the Cup before with Ulm victorious in 1999 and Düsseldorf winning in 1984. Four league meetings down the years have also seen two wins apiece.

RB Leipzig v Hoffenheim (Wednesday 20:45 CET)

It is time for Nagelsmann vs Rangnick round 2 as Leipzig host Hoffenheim in the Pokal. The future RB coach goes up against his future Sporting Director for the second time this season, having seen Ralf Rangnick get the better of him at the Rhein-Neckar Arena on Bundesliga matchday 6.

On that day it was the wily Rangnick, who won the tactical battle surprising everybody by dispensing with the back four and matching Hoffenheim’s 3-3-2-2 formation. A brace from Yussuf Poulsen wrapped up the win with Andrej Kramaric’s injury time penalty too late to matter.

In their five meetings to date, the record is all-square between them with two wins and a draw apiece. Their last encounter at the Red Bull Arena did however see Hoffenheim emerge victorious with a 5-2 scoreline.

The visitors had a comfortable 4-0 win over VfB Stuttgart at the weekend, while the hosts kept their fourth consecutive clean sheet in their goalless draw with Schalke. Image result for ralf rangnick julian nagelsmann

“Wednesday’s game features a Europa League club vs. a Champions League club” Rangnick has said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge. We’ll try to put in a really good performance and give our all to reach the next round.

“It’s clear to us what Hoffenheim do well and what defines them as a squad, but we also know where their team is vulnerable. We’ve got to show that we can find the right way to break them down to give us the advantage on Wednesday.”

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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