Domenico Tedesco and Niko Kovac have already stolen their fair share of headlines this season. Now the two young, overachieving coaches are set to battle it out for a spot in the German Cup final.
While Domenico Tedesco is being hailed as the 'coach of the season' on the back of a resounding Revierderby win that all but guaranteed Schalke a top-four finish, Niko Kovac's impressive record with Eintracht Frankfurt has already landed him the Bayern Munich job next season.
That they are two of the most highly regarded defensive-minded coaches in the Bundesliga is without question, but reputations and records will matter little when they meet at the Veltins-Arena on Wednesday.
Momentum on Schalke's side
"It's nice going into the semifinal after winning the derby, we'll definitely go into the game with a lot of confidence," Tedesco said. "We have to stay focused, though. It's an incredible challenge, playing in the German Cup semifinals, but the team is really looking forward to it."
Victory on Wednesday would see the Royal Blues feature in the final of Germany's cup competition for the first time since they lifted the title back in 2011. Furthermore, it would cement their status as the best of a mediocre cluster of title-chasing wannabes.
"We've got to maintain the derby atmosphere and put it on display once again in the Arena on Wednesday," said sporting director Christian Heidel. "It's a knockout game in which, from the very first second, we've got to come together to show that we really want to reach the final."
Domenico Tedesco has been nothing short of a revelation in his first season in charge at Schalke, who currently sit second in the Bundesliga.
Frankfurt eye cup glory
Last season's beaten finalists, Frankfurt, meanwhile, are hoping to clinch back-to-back appearances in Berlin with the aim of going one better than the 2-1 loss they suffered at the hands of Borussia Dortmund last May.
"We go into the game as underdogs," admitted Kovac. "We're away from home against the second-placed team in the league, who have only just won the derby. Then again, nobody gave us a prayer last season either. We managed to reach the final, so we know what a nice feeling it is. We also know how hard it is to get there."
Eintracht are still trying to find their balance on the waves created by the intense media coverage concerning Kovac's decision last week to join Bayern in the summer. Goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky admitted the team had been affected, saying that "we're humans, not robots" following Saturday's 4-1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen, but the Eagles are looking to bounce back in midweek.
The last time these two sides met in the German Cup, Frankfurt stormed to a 6-0 win on home soil in 2005. In a battle between two of the Bundesliga meanest backlines though, Wednesday's encounter is unlikely to be as clear cut.