The German Cup quarterfinals offer the real possibility of a giantkilling on Tuesday. Borussia Dortmund travel to third-division Lotte, while Eintracht Frankfurt host second-tier Arminia Bielefeld.
The town of Lotte is only around 100 kilometers away from Dortmund, but in footballing terms the two are worlds apart. Third division Sportfreunde Lotte are the lowest-ranking side left in the German Cup at the quarterfinals stage. Borussia Dortmund are riding high in the Bundesliga, still in the Champions League and have reached the last three German Cup finals.
However, Dortmund ended up on the losing side each time and are taking nothing for granted in their quest to finally go one better this season.
"Lotte are as strong as a second division side," said Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel. "I expect an adventurous opponent with nothing to lose."
Dortmund go into the game on the back of two successive 3-0 victories in the Bundesliga. The most recent of those, in Freiburg at the weekend, saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang score twice to end his 471-minute goal drought. The Gabon striker is joint top-scorer in the Bundesliga with 19 goals and Dortmund need him back firing on all cylinders ahead of a few crucial weeks in the cup, league and Champions League.
"Strikers are happiest when they score and the team wins," said Tuchel. "Auba is no different."
The German Cup has been anything but an easy ride for Borussia Dortmund so far. They needed a penalty shootout to see off Union Berlin and Hertha Berlin in the second round and last-16 respectively.
Lotte, on the other hand, have enjoyed a barnstorming path to the quarterfinals. Ismail Atalan's team claimed the scalps of Bundesliga sides Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen as well as second division 1860 Munich in the last round. And the Lotte coach is unfazed at the prospect of facing three-time German cup winners Dortmund.
"The unity and belief we've created in the dressing room is not something you find every day," said Atalan. "We have this mentality that we can beat anyone."
The 10,000-capacity Frimo Stadium is a far cry from the plush surroundings Dortmund are used to at their 80,000 plus Signal Iduna Park.
Lotte's two previous home games were called off as the pitch was deemed unplayable. Coming from a world of undersoil heating and pitches resembling carpets, Dortmund may not fancy the prospect of a cup battle on a soggy lower-league field. Tuchel admitted the pitch was a problem, but said his players had to "ignore the conditions."
"After the 3-0 victory in Freiburg, we will travel to Lotte full of confidence," said defender Erik Durm. "We need to get through to the next round, but it is going to be very, very difficult." Goalkeeper Roman Bürki echoed those sentiments, adding that Lotte will be buoyed by "great euphoria in the stadium."
Another potential banana-skin?
Tuesday's early kick-off sees Eintracht Frankfurt take on Arminia Bielefeld in another tie that could produce an upset.
Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac has overseen an incredible turnaround in fortunes at a club that only avoided relegation in the play-off last season. The Eagles had been soaring high in the Bundesliga this season, occupying a Champions League spot for several weeks until recently.
But three straight defeats, including a 2-0 reverse at Hertha Berlin, one of their main rivals for European qualification, have seen them slip down the standings.
Opponents Arminia Bielefeld are struggling against the drop in the second division, but earned a confidence-boosting draw at Hannover at the weekend. And Bielefeld have gained a reputation as giantkillers in recent years. The season before last, Arminia ditched Borussia Mönchengladbach at this stage to reach the semifinals.
With ingredients like that, cup magic could just be in the air this Tuesday.