Saarbrucken v Bayer Leverkusen | Tuesday 9th June 2020, 19:45 | BT Sport
It is fair to say football is very much settled into this ‘new normal’ phase and the return of the DFB Pokal represents another step forward. We’re at the semi-final stage of the domestic German cup competition and we have a David against Goliath battle on our hands on Tuesday night to kick things off.
Saarbrücken are very much the minnows in this respective battle as they are the first ever club from the German fourth-tier to reach this stage of the competition. It has however been a successful campaign as they were declared Regionalliga Südwest champions on a points per game basis to earn them promotion into 3. Liga for next season.
At the time the season stopped, they were six points clear at the top, having won 18 of 23 league matches this season. The Covid-19 pandemic therefore means they’ve not played any competitive football since early March.
Bayer Leverkusen therefore are deemed big, big favourites to emerge victories in this last-four encounter, although that would have probably been the case even if Saarbrücken had been playing week in, week out over the last few months.
Leverkusen might have been taught a lesson by Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg in recent times, but they’ve won all three away fixtures since returning from the extended break, including a fine victory in Gladbach last month.
As mentioned, Saarbrücken haven’t played for three months and the current climate has meant they’ve had to prepare for their biggest game in recent times in rather unique circumstances. They’ve had to be quarantined in a hotel for the best part of a week leading up to this event. The Leverkusen players will have been well-used to the precautions by now, so that affords them yet another advantage.
Not matter the fitness regime the Saarbrücken players would have gone through to get ready for this match, the reality is that they’ll suffer the more this clash goes on. Still, I do wonder if the Saarbrücken players would have quite enjoyed the quarantine period considering they’ve all been together and building team camaraderie. This is something they won’t have been used to but they may have just relished the uniqueness of the situation.
Now, we’re looking at quotes of 1/8 for a Leverkusen win in 90-minutes here, and the only way I’d have given Saarbrücken a chance is if they had been playing regularly and they had a crowd behind them. The lack of crowd almost ruins the occasion for them and what is the likelihood of this club ever going on a crazy cup run like this again?
It is worth mentioning however that they’ve knocked out Bundesliga duo Köln and Fortuna Dusseldorf along the way to this stage, and both at Hermann-Neuberger-Stadion, but one packed full of supporters.
I can only see this game going one way. I do fancy Saarbrücken to actually have a fairly decent opening to the game. They’ll just be glad to be back playing again and they’ve had long enough to study Leverkusen. It’s worth remembering that this too is a big game for Leverkusen as they’ve only won this cup once and that was in 1993.
Still, they could make some changes here and I think they’ll be happy to play the long game here, knowing their fitness will come into play later on.
The betting angles
However, I don’t think we can just expect Saarbrücken to sit back and not receive a scare or two early on. Leverkusen does prefer to play on the counter attack, and they won’t get that luxury here. Therefore, they are going to have to be patient, which is why I can see Saarbrücken holding out for a good half hour or so.
Leverkusen do have 22 Bundesliga goals this season before the 30th minute, and only Bayern Munich have achieved more. That’s playing in the back of my mind therefore, which is why I still think they’ll lead at the interval here.
Saarbrücken v Bayer Leverkusen – Bayer Leverkusen Over 1.5 Second Half Goals (8/11 Betway)
Saarbrücken v Bayer Leverkusen – Second Half Highest Scoring Half (20/21 Bet365)
Saarbrücken v Bayer Leverkusen – Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Half-Time Score (13/5 Bet365)
Saarbrücken v Bayer Leverkusen – Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Half-Time Score (4/1 BoyleSports)