The DFB-Pokal semi-finals kick off on Friday as Werder Bremen hosts RB Leipzig at the Wohninvest Weserstadion.
Bremen got to this stage after defeating 2. Bundesliga outfit Jahn Regensburg in the last eight. A tight affair throughout, Die Grün-Weißen were able break the deadlock early on in the second half courtesy of Yuya Osako, who snuck past the backline with a clever run before settling the ball and rifling a shot into the back of the net. That would prove to be the only goal of the game, as Bremen held on to clinch the win despite late pressure from the opposition.
Leipzig, meanwhile, had to get past fellow top-four Bundesliga side Wolfsburg in the quarter-finals. They were lucky to not go behind in the fixture, as Wout Weghorst slipped when attempting a penalty, which led to him skying the effort. Die Roten Bullen would make the most of that break, with Yussuf Poulsen giving them the lead near the hour mark before Hwang Hee-chan sealed the tie with a late goal to send them through.
Both will feel especially motivated to come out on top in this game and advance to the final, putting themselves one step closer to DFB-Pokal glory in the process. Bremen could certainly use the money that would come with winning the competition and qualifying for next season's Europa League. For Leipzig, ending this campaign with a trophy would be an excellent way to show just how far they've come as a club.
Bremen will be without Nick Woltemade and Luca Plogmann on Friday, while Ömer Toprak and Leonardo Bittencourt are both doubts for the contest.
Things are a bit better on the injury front for Leipzig, as they’ll only be missing Poulsen, who is dealing with a thigh issue, and Dominik Szoboszlai, who has yet to recover from a groin problem that has ruled him out of action since joining the club in January.
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Veljković, Toprak, Friedl, Gebre Selassie, Eggestein, Möhwald, Schmid, Augustinsson, Sargent, Rashica
RB Leipzig: Gulácsi, Klostermann, Upamecano, Halstenberg, Mukiele, Kampl, Sabitzer, Angeliño, Nkunku, Sørloth, Olmo
Ones to watch
Bremen need a hero, and they need one badly.
The team has struggled for over a month now. Their last Bundesliga win came on March 10th, and they now find themselves in the thick of the relegation battle. Die Grün-Weißen have been poor on both ends of the pitch, conceding goals while not often scoring them.
They are in desperate need of something, or someone, to spark them back into life. That’s where Milot Rashica can come into play.
He used to be Bremen’s star player, as his performances over the course of the last two seasons really put him on the world map. The attacker started to attract the attention of Europe’s elite, and it seemed like a marquee move away was on the cards this past summer. That never came to be, though, and the player has suffered ever since.
Injuries did hamper Rashica’s start to this campaign, but he’s still not looked the same even when healthy. He just lacks that edge at the moment. It’s clear to see that he’s trying to make an impact, but he’s just not able to. He seems slower than usual, and his passing, dribbling, and shooting are all a bit off at the moment.
However, players like him only need a moment to make a difference.
Rashica is still capable of the spectacular, which should give Leipzig something to worry about. Maybe the Kosovo international will dance past a number of defenders to open up space for a teammate in the final third, or maybe he’ll go for goal himself with a thunderous strike from distance.
As underdogs, Bremen might end up needing Rashica to pull something out of the hat if they are to have any hope of making the final. He hasn’t been able to do that yet this season, but maybe the importance of the occasion will be what sparks him back to life.
He hasn’t had the best campaign, but there’s a chance that Alexander Sørloth can save his season by leading Leipzig to the DFB-Pokal final, and maybe even to the trophy itself.
The forward came to the Red Bull Arena in the summer with plenty of expectations. He had a breakthrough season in 2019/20 with Turkish side Trabzonspor, scoring 33 goals in all competitions. That’s what led to his move to Leipzig, as the club brought him and Hwang Hee-chan in to replace the departing Timo Werner.
However, as mentioned earlier, it’s just not quite worked out for Sørloth. He’s failed to fully adapt to life in Germany, and his poor start to the year led to him getting dropped to the bench. Leipzig’s ambitions for the campaign meant that they couldn’t risk waiting for him to deliver. Instead, they resorted to utilizing a false nine for most games, showcasing how little faith they had in the target man.
Things might be turning around, though. Sørloth scored twice against Bremen a few weeks ago, and he’s led the line in his team’s last two games. He was kept off the scoresheet in those contests, but the Norwegian international will fancy his chances of finding the back of the net on Friday against a side who have really struggled defensively.
There’s been a lot of disappointment surrounding his signing, but those ill feelings could all fade away if Sørloth is the one who fires Leipzig to glory.
Last time out
Bremen will be hoping that this contest goes a lot better than the last one between these two teams, as Leipzig ran out 4-1 winners on that day.
Die Roten Bullen opened the scoring in some style, as a backheel from Dani Olmo picked out Kevin Kampl, who then played the Spaniard into space in the area. He made no mistake with the finish, confidently slotting past Jiří Pavlenka from close range.
A brace from Sørloth before the half-time break would all but secure the result. He first headed home a lovely cross from Christopher Nkunku to double his side’s advantage before then slamming the ball into the back of the net from a few yards out less than 10 minutes later.
Bremen did try to put up somewhat of a fight, and they even pulled a goal back near the hour mark when Rashica converted a penalty. However, they didn’t get to dream of a comeback for long, as Marcel Sabitzer then slotted home almost right after to restore Leipzig’s three goal lead.
They were able to hold on following that goal, securing the win and all three points with little difficulty.
How to watch
The contest won’t be aired live in the UK, but those in the United States will be able to watch the action unfold on ESPNEWS and ESPN Deportes at 2:30 p.m. EST.