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“We are unbelievably ambitious”

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A cup game against Leipzig. The last meeting in the DFB-Pokal doesn’t feel all that long ago, but the final in Berlin is almost a year ago now. Not too many words need to be spoken about the outcome from that game almost a year ago. “The win against this team would be revenge enough,” explained Mark Flekken, before expanding, “We obviously want to get to Berlin again.”

That is the main aim for SC on Thursday evening under the lights with their home fans behind them. “The atmosphere at the ground will be electric and we will give everything to take that final step,” said captain Christian Günter, sharing the same sense of anticipation as his goalkeeper. Head coach Christian Streich spoke similarly ahead of the game: “We have worked hard to get into this particular position. We are playing at home, are feeling good, are looking forward to it and are ready for the game. We are unbelievably ambitious about having a good game. This team will run through walls for each other.”

Clearly, Leipzig are aiming for the same thing. “It is a cup semi-final. Both teams absolutely want to play in the final. It is a great game for both clubs which has a lot on the line – prestige, a title,” said RB head coach Marco Rose. His opposite number Streich wanted to take one final look back at last year’s final ahead of this semi-final. “Last year we had some brilliant experiences, going to Berlin last year was one of the highlights of my life. The team has now managed to reach the semi-final of the DFB-Pokal again – after so many Europa League, DFB-Pokal and Bundesliga games. They have worked hard to be here.”

This year’s journey to the semis included ties against Kaiserslautern, St. Pauli, Sandhausen and Bayern Munich. In every single round, SC have won late on, with goals after the 85th minute. This is a fact Streich himself wasn’t aware of. “That is amazing. If we don’t lead until the 87th minute tomorrow and get through that would be ideal.”

Leipzig’s changing eleven

Leipzig have played Teutonia Ottensen, Hamburger SV, TSG Hoffenheim and most recently Borussia Dortmund in this season’s Pokal and are in a third consecutive semi-final. Streich couldn’t give a prediction for how Marco Rose’s side would line up. “We are playing a team in the semi-final tomorrow full of very strong individual players. You never know who is going to start. They have 17 or 18 players who could be in the starting eleven.” There is some uncertainty about the starting eleven that SC will meet on Tuesday evening. “We won’t let that drive us mad though. We know Leipzig, even if we don’t know who is going to play.”

Streich and his coaching staff can call upon the same squad who played at the weekend in Cologne. But it is also still not clear in Freiburg who will be in the starting eleven at a sold-out Europa-Park Stadion. “We communicate very well with our players. It is still not 100% clear who will start.”

His anticipation ahead of the game, with lots of fans behind the team playing at home, ahead of a game which the whole of Germany will watch, was summed up once again by the SC coach: “I love the Pokal. The Pokal is football at its purest. This is how football should be.”

Photo: Achim Keller

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