Germany: DFB Pokal
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G. Xhaka (17), K. Odilon (44)
By Ben Sully@SullyBen

Kaiserslautern vs. Bayer Leverkusen preview: Who can claim DFB-Pokal glory?

Second-tier Kaiserslautern will go head-to-head with Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen in Saturday's DFB-Pokal final.


Kaiserslautern will have the chance to win a third DFB-Pokal trophy after successfully navigating their way to the final. They eliminated FC Rot-Weiß Koblenz, Köln and Nürnberg before they faced Hertha BSC in the quarter-finals. They recorded a 3-1 victory at the Olympiastadion to set up a semi-final clash with Saarbrücken. The third tier posed a very real threat after knocking out Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Mönchengladbach on their way to the last four. Kaiserslautern ultimately brought an end to Saarbrücken’s memorable journey, with Marlon Ritter and Almamy Touré netting in a 2-0 victory.

Friedhelm Funkel’s side will head into Saturday’s contest in a buoyant mood after enjoying a successful end to the 2.Bundesliga season. They won three of their final four matches to move away from the drop zone and finish in 13th position. Kaiserslautern are now set to make their first DFB-Pokal appearance since losing to to Bayern 2002/03. 

Die Roten Teufel have previously won the competition on two occasions. They lifted the trophy for the first time in 1989/90, before they repeated the feat in 1995/96 when they beat Karlsruhe 1-0 in the final.

After taking over the reins in February, Funkel will leave his role when his contract expires this summer. But, before he departs, he has the opportunity to lead the club to Pokal glory and Europa League qualification.

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Julian Niehues and Hendrick Zuck are both ruled out due to anterior cruciate ligament injuries. Ragnar Ache and Ben Zolinski are both doubts, while Jan Elvedi is expected to be fit despite missing the recent 5-0 win over Eintracht Braunschweig.

Bayer Leverkusen

Leverkusen have exceeded all expectations in a memorable campaign. They collected 90 points from 34 matches to claim their first Bundesliga title, bringing an end to Bayern’s dominance in the top flight. Die Werkself beat Augsburg 2-1 last weekend to become the first team to finish a Bundesliga campaign without losing. 

They were also just two games away from completing an unbeaten campaign in all competitions. However, those hopes were quashed in Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat to Atalanta in the Europa League final. Ademola Lookman netted a hat-trick in Dublin to end Leverkusen’s 51-game unbeaten run.

After experiencing disappointment in the Europa League final, die Werkself will quickly pick themselves up for Saturday’s trip to the capital. They began their cup journey with wins over  Teutonia Ottensen, Sandhausen and Paderborn, before they faced Bundesliga opposition in the quarter-finals. Alonso’s side fought back from a 2-1 down to beat Stuttgart and set up a last-four meeting with Fortuna Düsseldorf. Leverkusen made light work of their second-tier opponents, producing a free-scoring display to ease to a 4-0 win.

They are hoping to claim their second Pokal trophy, having won just one of their previous four final appearances. Leverkusen edged out Hertha’s reserve side to lift the trophy in 1992/93. Since that success, Leverkusen have finished as Pokal runners-up in 2001/02, 2008/09 and 2019/20. Alonso will be desperate to end that disappointing run as he looks to lead the club to a league and cup double.

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Having reported no fresh injury concerns, Alonso should have a fully fit squad to choose from.

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