The second semi in the national knockout German Cup brings together third league leaders Arminia Bielefeld and Wolfsburg on Wednesday. If they want to ruin Cinderella's dance, the Wolves are going to have to wake up.
Everybody loves a good underdog story, and if there's one place for it in the world of German soccer, it's most definitely the German Cup. This year, the headline potential clearly lies with Arminia Biefeld.
Crazy things are happening right now in the western German city. The city's team has taken down three top division clubs in succession in the competition known as the DFB Pokal here in Germany. During their last league game, against Erfurt on Saturday, Bielefeld's Christoph Hemlein even scored a goal from 60 meters out.
Arminia Bielefeld has already written German Cup history in getting this far, but the club says it's not done yet. Since the official introduction of a third division in Germany in 2008, no third league team has made it to the Cup semifinals.
"If you're in the semis, nobody can stop you from dreaming about the finals," said Bielefeld sporting director Samir Arabi recently. He's already tipping that the Wolves will be "our fourth first league victim," after his club showed Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen and finally Mönchengladbach the proverbial door.
And indeed, Wednesday's Cup semifinal comes at an opportune time for Arminia Bielefeld, whose recent form has increased both the club's lead in the third league (to a comfortable five points) - and its confidence.
"All we can do is win … and I think we've shown the top league that we can keep up with them," said Bielefeld striker Fabian Klos, who scored on Saturday in that 4-0 rout of Erfurt, putting him four clear of the rest of the league with 20 season snipes.
An almost injury-free Arminia will be suiting up on Wednesday at the club's Schüco Stadium, with only one of Coach Norbert Meier's top 11 missing from the lineup: midfielder Peer Kluge, who's been out for most of the 2014/2015 season.
De Bruyne is back on the field, but Wolfsburg wasn't in the driver's seat against Gladbach on Sunday
Sluggish, yet highly favored
Just as Bielefeld is ballooning with good vibes, Wolfsburg - still second in the top league behind Bayern - has faltered as of late, losing in sluggish form on Sunday to Gladbach after being thrashed in the Europa League by Napoli.
Even with young Belgian star Kevin De Bruyne back on the pitch after sitting out against Napoli, the Wolves weren't able to show any teeth against Gladbach in the game that put the final seal on Bayern's Bundesliga dominance in 2015.
Despite the lagging form Wolfsburg will still go into Wednesday's match the clear favorites with European bookmakers. But, the last thing on Arminia Bielefeld's mind at this point is probability, as the third league team hopes strong momentum will take it to the Olympic Stadium in Berlin for the final on May 30.
After all, if Christoph Hemlein can score a goal from his own half, anything's possible for Bielefeld in a German Cup semifinal.