DFB Cup final: Bayer wants the double against outsider FCK

DFB Cup final: Bayer wants the double against outsider FCK

The treble is no longer possible for Leverkusen after the disappointment in the Europa League. But the double is to be achieved in the cup final against Kaiserslautern. A leader is asking the question of character.

Then the double. Bayer Leverkusen is heading into the unequal DFB Cup final against second division side 1. FC Kaiserslautern on Saturday (8 p.m./ARD and Sky) with frustration and a now-more-than-ever attitude. After the bitter 0:3 defeat in the Europa League final against Atalanta Bergamo, the German champions are now hoping for a glorious end to a historic season.

“If not a triple, then a double. We still have the chance to play an almost perfect season,” said midfield strategist Granit Xhaka after Dublin’s title dream was shattered. Coach Xabi Alonso gave the slogan: “We have to turn the pain into energy.”

Xhaka is taking his team, which had been unbeaten for almost a year until last Wednesday, to task. “Now we have to see what kind of character this team really has,” said the Swiss. “Of course it’s easier when everything is going well. When you don’t lose 51 games, it’s easy to stand together and laugh. Now is the time to see which players have character and can get back up quickly.”

Lautern’s veteran coach Friedhelm Funkel, however, admitted before his fifth cup final: “I have never been more of an outsider than in this game.” The 70-year-old had just saved the Palatinate team from relegation, his mission at the Betzenberg is thus fulfilled, he must make way for a successor who has not yet been named. In Berlin he will once again get the big stage.

New situation for the Bayer professionals

As a player for the Red Devils, Funkel fought in the cup final 43 years ago, back then in Stuttgart and not yet in Berlin. The result was a 1:3 defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt. As head coach, he lost to FC Bayern (1:2) with MSV Duisburg in 1998 and again to Munich (0:1) with Frankfurt in 2006. But: With Bayer Uerdingen, the young Funkel managed a 2:1 final victory against Bayern Munich in the Olympic Stadium in 1985. “If it was a huge surprise and sensation back then, then we need a miracle now,” he said.

Leverkusen expressed themselves positively, saying they want to show a mix of self-confidence and defiance despite the disappointment in Europe. But there have been two small glimmers of hope for Lautern since Wednesday. Firstly, this Bayer team is the first unbeaten Bundesliga champion to have to deal with a defeat for the first time. “We have never had a situation like this before,” said Xhaka.

However, sporting director Simon Rolfes stressed that his team “has often shown during games that they can get back up again”. In addition, the strength this season “has emerged from the disappointment of the past”.

Leverkusen wants to let out the anger

But in the back of the minds of one or two of the professionals, there might also be fears of spoiling the mood at the end of this unique season, especially in the final stretch and before the celebration on Sunday in Leverkusen with up to 80,000 expected fans. “We all know that this season has to end a little happier,” said captain and goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky: “That’s why we have to deal with this shitty feeling and let out our anger on Saturday.”

Defence chief Jonathan Tah sees things similarly. “We can’t let this one defeat ruin everything,” said the national player. “We have the chance to make this season even more special than it already is.” And that requires a positive attitude. “It’s about the double and the almost perfect season. We can still achieve that,” said Jonas Hofmann: “If you don’t put your full focus on it, there’s no help for you.”

FCK is expecting a “real challenge”

The FCK can win the cup for the third time after 1990 and 1996, it would be the biggest coup for the Palatinate team since the championship triumph in 1998 as a newly promoted team under Otto Rehhagel. The Fritz-Walter-Club is counting on the inspiration of its experienced coach Funkel and the vocal power of its fans: up to 50,000 – some without tickets – are expected in Berlin. Bayer, meanwhile, is expecting 30,000 fans. The ticket quota of 23,700 was quickly sold out for both teams.

For the professionals of the underdog, says Lautern’s captain Jean Zimmer, it is – with perhaps a few exceptions – a career highlight to play in the cup final in Berlin. “I see it quite realistically. We are playing against one of the best teams in Europe. We are facing a real challenge. Our chances are rather slim.”

Source: Stern

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