The 2011/12 2. Bundesliga season is being interrupted after just two matches to accommodate the opening round of the DFB-Pokal – Germany’s equivalent to England’s League Cup in terms of structure, albeit the equivalent of England’s FA Cup in terms of stature. Spread over three days and numerous time slots, the 64-team tournament sees all the top division sides and those in the league below who haven’t just been promoted there given away games to start with – hence why last season’s 3. Liga bronze-medallists Dresden have been given home advantage against last season’s Bundesliga runners-up, Leverkusen.
Although the latter are yet to begin their season, the Bundesliga campaign starting next weekend and Bayer’s spot in the Champions League already booked, you expect Robin Dutt’s squad to be as shipshape fitness-wise as their hosts, who have made an iffy start to life back in the second tier (a loss and a draw against fellow East German outfits Energie Cottbus and Hansa Rostock respectively). Dutt, who has lost Arturo Vidal and Sami Hyypiä to Juventus and retirement, was certainly of that opinion coming in to this game: “We’ll get the job done if we play to our full potential. We’re where we need to be at this stage of the season,” he said.
Not only does the new coach – who joined from Freiburg at the end of the 2010/11 campaign – have the luxury of a nigh-on fully-fit and André Schürrle-endowed squad to choose from for this late July tie, injured goalkeeper René Adler and full-back Bastian Oczipka being the only absentees, he also has some first-hand knowledge of how counterpart Ralf Loose’s teams play. According to Dutt: “[Loose] coached Sportfreunde Siegen in the Regional League and I was with Stuttgarter Kickers at the time, so we already know each other.”
Although Loose’s side have found the going tough so far in 2. Bundesliga, it will take some time for Dresden to gel as a unit. In the – extremely short – off-season, 13 players left the club, and ten came in. And, Loose admitted in the week that his squad is by no means complete. The former Liechenstein, St Gallen and Augsburg coach only has one striker at his disposal (Pavel Fořt), and admitted that this is limiting what he can do tactically. Loose has been using a 4-2-3-1 so far this season – a system that came unstuck against the 4-2-3-1s deployed by both Cottbus and Rostock. Dutt, however, favours a 4-1-4-1, so this will be a new puzzle for Loose’s team to solve.
Bayer and Dresden have only faced each other once before in the DFB-Pokal. That meeting came in 1993 when Bayer lost 6-5 on penalties after the match finished 1-1. Paulo Sérgio, one year away from being a world champion with Brazil, had given Bayer the lead in extra time, only for Dresden to draw level. The Czech international Pavel Hapal then missed the crucial spot-kick for coach Dragoslav Stepanović’s team, the cup holders, sending the East German outfit through to the next round.
Dynamo Dresden vs Bayer Leverkusen kicks off at 2.30pm, UK time. The referee will be Günter Perl – a man Bochum fans will remember none too fondly.