The DFB Pokal, Germany's longest running, competition is back kicking off the 2014/15 domestic campaign for German clubs.
Unlike the Copa del Rey, Coppa Italia and FA Cup, the tournament is short and sweet, consisting of only six rounds of one-off games. Each second of game time matters, compressing season-long ramifications in 90 minutes.
This weekend, 64 teams will kick off the 53rd DFB-Pokal, all with aspirations of hoisting the golden goblet in Berlin. Bundesliga teams are not necessarily locks to advance to the second round; in fact, four of them – Borussia Mönchengladbach, SV Werder Bremen, Eintracht Braunschweig, and 1. FC Nürnberg – were knocked out in this phase last year.
The top teams are expected to go through, but there are some intriguing matches that will be fun to watch.
Both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will start their German Cup tournaments on the road against 3. Bundesliga teams. The two teams are favorites to reach the finals again, which would be the fourth time they will face each other in Berlin's Olympiastadion.
Stuttgarter Kickers vs. Borussia Dortmund (Saturday, August 16)
Dortmund are coming off of an impressive victory in the DFL Supercup where they outclassed domestic double champions Bayern in front of a home crowd. Newly acquired Ciro Immobile will likely sit out this one, giving Adrian Ramos a chance to start in Klopp's new two-striker system. Dortmund have had four consecutive 3-0 victories in the first round, so Horst Steffen and the Stuttgarter Kickers will have a tough time bucking that trend.
Projected Score: Stuttgarter Kickers (0-3) Borussia Dortmund
Preußen Münster vs. Bayern München (Sunday, August 17)
This preseason has seen another major tactical shift from Pep Guardiola as Bayern moved through July without his top German players. Two consecutive losses in the MLS All-Star Game and the DFL-Supercup have raised questions about Bayern's potency this year. Preußen Münster will be the victim of a redemption result.
Projected Score: Preußen Münster (1-5) Bayern MünchenTelevision: ESPN 3 (US), ESPN (UK)
Top Bundesliga Teams
Alemannia Waldalgesheim vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Friday, August 15)
Even though Bayer Leverkusen have maintained a strong standing in the German landscape over the past five seasons, their German cup runs have been underwhelming. Last year was the first time Leverkusen made the quarterfinals since reaching the final in 2009. Even so, the tiny club of Alemannia Waldalgesheim from the fifth tier of German football will have a tough time keeping Switzerland international Josip Drmic out of the back of the net.
Projected Score: Alemannia Waldalgesheim (0-4) Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Dynamo Dresden vs. FC Schalke 04
Schalke have the third most German Cups with five, and their depth of young and exciting German players could lift them on several fronts. Dynamo Dresden was relegated to the third division a year ago, but have taken 10 points from their first four 3. Bundesliga matches. Schalke have not had the best preseason, so form alone could provide an interesting case for an upset.
Projected Score: Dynamo Dresden (1-3) FC Schalke 04
Darmstadt 98 vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Sunday, August 17)
One of the clubs in the mix for a Champions League spot, VfL Wolfsburg have poached mid-table talent to fortify their depth. Their recent Cup record has been phenomenal, reaching the Semifinals each of the past two seasons. They will take on a Darmstadt 98 team driven by 28-year-old Domonik Stroh-Engel, who have held their own in the 2. Bundesliga following their promotion. Wolfsburg's veteran depth should have no trouble with advancing to the second round.
Projected Score: Darmstadt 98 (1-4) VfL Wolfsburg
FC Homborg vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Saturday, August 16)
'Gladbach still has the bad taste in its mouth from their penalty shoot-out loss to Darmstadt 98. This time, Lucien Farve's team has a little more experience scoring together, and both Max Kruse and Raffael have the ability to get in behind and score. FC Homborg are a fourth-tier team that are making their first DFB-Pokal appearance in six years. 'Gladbach will not have trouble scoring this time around, and could be poised for another semifinal appearance.
Projected Score: FC Homborg (0-3) Borussia Mönchengladbach
Chemnitzer FC vs. 1. FSV Mainz 05 (Friday, August 15)
Having a stellar season is one thing, but losing all of the talent that got you there is another. Mainz is a club that is very thin at the moment, with Erik-Maxim Choupo-Moting, Nikolai Müller, and Shawn Parker all at other clubs. As dynamic as Shinji Okazaki is, his effectiveness has come as a result of playing off someone else. Mainz has already fallen out of the Europa League to Asteras Tripolis, so this is Chemnitzer's chance to advance out of the first round and into the Europa League.
Projected Score: Chemnitzer FC (2-1) 1. FSV Mainz 05
VfL Bochum vs. VfB Stuttgart (Saturday, August 16)
After their appearance in the DFB-Pokal final stuck them in the Europa League, VfB Stuttgart narrowly avoided relegation with a 15th-place finish. Ibrahima Traore and Arthur Boka have moved on, which means they will have to rely on 18-year-old Timo Werner, 19-year-old Carlos Gruezo, and 21-year-old Antonio Rüdiger to carry them forward. VfL Bochum, on the other hand, are coming off of a 5-1 thumping of FC Erzgebirge Aue with both Stanislav Sesták and Simon Terodde collecting braces. This is a perfect opportunity for Bochum to knock out a Bundesliga side, especially after their run to the Round of 16 the past couple of seasons
Projected Score: VfL Bochum (2-1) VfB Stuttgart
Energie Cottbus vs. Hamburger SV (Monday, August 18)
Hamburg was the collapse of the season a year ago, and even a Quarterfinal Cup appearance could not salvage their lost season. They are slowly returning to form, the old fart Rafael van der Vaart squeezing the last football out of his legs and Pierre-Michel Lasogga bringing stability to their forward situation. Energie Cottbus are smack-dab in the middle of the 3. Bundesliga table after four matches, but have been able to hold on for scoreless draws to collect points. This game could go to penalties, and as Darmstadt 98 showed last year, kicking from the spot is a whole new ballgame.
Projected Score: Energie Cottbus (0-0) Hamburger SV, with Cottbus getting a shot at penalties
Friday, August 15
MSV Duisburg vs. 1. FC Nürnberg
Der Club have fallen out of the Bundesliga, but they should be able to move past the Zebras of Duisburg.
Projected Score: MSV Duisburg (0-2) 1. FC Nürnberg
Saturday, August 16
FC Viktoria Köln vs. Hertha Berliner SC
No Adrian Ramos? No Pierre-Michel Lasogga? No problem. Julian Schieber should be able to see Hertha BSC through.
Projected Score: FC Viktoria Köln (1-2) Hertha Berliner SC
FC Astoria Waldorf vs. Hannover 96
They're not a sexy team, but the 96ers have plenty of German Cup experience to reach the second round against fourth-tier Astoria Waldorf.
Projected Score: FC Astoria Waldorf (0-2) Hannover 96
FT Braunschweig vs. 1. FC Köln
A match against two recently promoted clubs, although Köln moved to the Bundesliga and FT Braunschweig moved to the Regionalliga.
Projected Score: FT Braunschweig (0-2) 1. FC Köln
Optik Rathenow vs. FC St. Pauli
It will be a tough year for St. Pauli if they continue to stall, but Oberliga Optik Rathenow is the least of their problems.
Projected Score: Optik Rathenow (0-1) FC St. Pauli
Bremer SV vs. Eintracht Braunschweig
A second early exit is less likely for Braunschweig against Bremen-league Bremer SV
Projected Score: Bremer SV (0-4) Eintracht Braunschweig
SV Waldkirch vs. SpVgg Greuther Fürth
Close to league promotion, Fürth will start their promotion campaign with a cup match against sixth-tier Waldkirch.
Projected Score: SV Waldkirch (3-0) SpVgg Greuther Fürth
SV Wehen Wiesbaden vs. 1. FC Kaiserslautern
The surprise semifinalist Kaiserslautern face a bit of a tougher test against Wehen Wiesbaden, especially since Simon Zoller has transferred to Bundesliga-side Köln.
Projected Score: SV Wehen Wiesbaden (1-2) 1. FC Kaiserslautern
Viktoria Berlin vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Retooled Eintracht Frankfurt should have no problem with Oberliga Viktoria Berlin, even with Sebastian Rode and Sebastian Jung gone.
Projected Score: Viktoria Berlin (0-2) Eintracht Frankfurt
Sportfreunde Siegen vs. FSV Frankfurt
Fourth-tier Sportfreunde Siegen hope to turn around a tough Regionalliga start against an FSV Frankfurt team that lost it's top two goal scorers.
Projected Score: Sportfreunde Siegen (0-1) FSV Frankfurt
Sunday, August 17
Holstein Kiel vs. TSV 1860 München
Kiel hope to continue their home success as the disjointed 1860 Munich team comes to town.
Projected Score: Holstein Kiel (2-1) TSV 1860 München
FV Illertissen vs. SV Werder Bremen
A tough Illertissen side looks to hold their own against Werder Bremen, who have lost a bit of their shine despite six German Cups.
Projected Score: FV Illertissen (0-2) SV Werder Bremen
USC Paloma vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Hoffenheim will take advantage of their depth when they travel to low-level USC Paloma.
Projected Score: USC Paloma (0-5) TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
BSV Schwarz-Weiß Rehden vs. VfR Aalen
Rehden hope to surprise Aalen as they host a first-round cup match for the second year in a row.
Projected Score: BSV Schwarz-Weiß Rehden (0-1) VfR Aalen
FC Carl Zeiss Jena vs. FC Erzgebirge Aue
Erzgebirge Aue need to use their match against Regionalliga Carl Zeiss Jena to bounce back in their 2. Bundesliga campaign.
Projected Score: FC Carl Zeiss Jena (0-1) Erzgebirge Aue
Arminia Bielefeld vs. SV Sandhausen
These two clubs will have to compete all 90 minutes after splitting the 2. Bundesliga fixture a year ago.
Projected Score: Arminia Bielefeld (1-0) SV Sandhausen
Eintracht Trier vs. SC Freiburg
Freiburg want to kickstart another deep cup run when they face fourth-tier Eintracht Trier.
Projected Score: Eintracht Trier (0-3) SC Freiburg
Würzburger Kickers vs. Fortuna Düsseldorf
Würzburger looks to continue their hot start in the Regionalliga when they host Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Projected Score: Würzburger Kickers (3-2) Fortuna Düsseldorf
Neubrandenburg vs. Karlsruher SC
Karlsruher will get a break from Bundesliga opponents in the cup when they travel to Neubrandenburg.
Projected Score: Neubrandenburg (0-2) Karlsruher
RB Leipzig vs. SC Paderborn
The two recently-promoted sides will duke it out as Paderborn tries to establish a Bundesliga brand.
Projected Score: RB Leipzig (2-1) SC Paderborn
1. FC Magdeburg vs. FC Augsburg
Augsburg will flex newly added American Shawn Parker as they try to replicate their last two cup runs into the Round of 16.
Projected Score: 1. FC Magdeburg (0-3) FC Augsburg
Monday, August 18
1. FC Heidenheim vs. 1. FC Union Berlin
Heidenheim will try to prove they belong in the second tier as they take on Union Berlin in a 2. Bundesliga clash.
Projected Score: 1. FC Heidenheim (2-1) 1. FC Union Berlin
Kickers Offenbach vs. FC Ingolstadt
FC Ingolstadt seek their first victory, traveling down the road in Bavaria to face familiar Regionalliga opponent Offenbach.
Projected Score: Kickers Offenbach (0-3) FC Ingolstadt
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