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Sportfreunde Lotte aim for German Cup upset against Borussia Dortmund

Lotte are this season's upstarts in the German Cup, having beaten two Bundesliga teams along the route to the quarterfinals. The third-division club have been rewarded with a money-spinning tie against Dortmund.

Osnabrueck's Bremer Brücke stadium is to be the venue as Borussia Dortmund turn their attentions this week to an intriguing German Cup clash against third division Sportfreunde Lotte.

The match was originally scheduled for February 28 at Lotte's Frimo Stadium, but neither team put up an argument when the referee declared the water-logged pitch unplayable. The German FA and both clubs subsequently agreed to move the match to this Tuesday -  and to play it 13 kilometers (eight miles) to the east, in Osnabrueck.

Despite Sportfreunde Lotte being a third division side, Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel is expecting a tough contest.

"They are a very courageous and passionate team, comparable to a second-division side. It will be hard work and won't necessarily be a lot of fun," Tuchel told the pregame press conference on Monday.

Third in the Bundesliga and almost sure of a place in next season's Champions League, the Dortmund bench boss has prioritized winning his first title since he replaced Jürgen Klopp in 2015. Tuchel's side defeated Benfica with ease last week in the Champions League last 16, but went down 2-1 at Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga.

"The result is annoying, but the performance was ok," Tuchel said of Saturday's loss.

Dortmund's policy of squad rotation will be put to the test against the lower-league opponents. Ousmane Dembele and Christian Pulisic were wrapped in cotton wool for the trip to the capital, with both coming off the bench for just the last quarter of an hours, but Lotte's aggressive style may put both players at risk of rough treatment. With the quarterfinals of the Champions League coming up next month, Tuchel simply cannot afford extended layoffs for either player.

It's not a Lotte-ry

Since the original fixture was deemed unplayable, Lotte's two wins from three have moved them into third place in the league. Ismail Atalan's side - from a town of 14,000 - could yet achieve a second successive promotion after taking them from the fourth tier to the third division at the end of last season.

 

Most recently, Lotte have won 3-0 and 2-0 on home turf against Chemnitz and Hansa Rostock, respectively.

"We have a chance. We're going to go out on Tuesday with the hope of winning the game," said the highly rated Atalan, who came to Germany as a child three decades ago as a Kurdish refugee from Turkey.

Following in the footsteps of Julian Nagelsmann and Alexander Nouri from last year's graduates, the 36-year-old Atalan is working on his elite coaching qualifications at the prestigious Hennes-Weisweiler Akademie in the western German town of Hennef.

In his first season at Lotte, the Blue and Whites won the regional cup and earned promotion to the nationwide third division. This season, Atalan has masterminded victories over Bayer Leverkusen, Werder Bremen and second-tier 1860 Munich in the German Cup. If he carries on like this, it may be but a matter of time before he is given an opportunity in the Bundesliga.

"We must show a high willingness to help, everyone has to work for everyone," Atalan said. "The club, the team and myself, are looking forward to it. We all have earned it because of the achievements shown in the past two years but also to experience it all."

The winner of this meeting faces holders Bayern Munich in one semifinal, while Borussia Mönchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt clash in the other in a bid to reach the May 27 final in Berlin.

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