An injury-hit Bayern Munich look to guarantee a spot in the semifinals of the German Cup with a trip to Bochum to keep them on their toes. Elsewhere, Hertha Berlin face Heidenheim as they seek an end to Cup failure.
Five years ago, Bayern Munich needed a last-gasp winner from Arjen Robben to come through in their last meeting with Bochum in the German Cup. Now, with the league appearing to be a formality for the champions, securing progress is a necessity to maintain treble ambitions.
"It's like a final for us," Pep Guardiola told journalists at his pre-match press conference. "It's an uncomfortable game for us, but I have confidence in my team. They have fast players on the sides and some quality in the middle. They play like Leverkusen: forward, forward, forward, and very aggressive."
Bochum, fifth in the second division, are coached by experienced Dutchman Gertjan Verbeek who was previously in charge of Nuremburg for one season. The Ruhrpott club were an established Bundesliga club between 1972 and 1993 and was last relegated from the top-flight in 2010. Bochum were denied an instant return to the Bundesliga by Lucien Favre's Borussia Mönchengladbach in the following season.
Since then, Bochum have a managed a sequence of mid-table finishes, while there has been no success in German Cup for the best part of 28 years, their last appearance in the final. With a win in their first league game of the year at home to Freiburg, the blue-and-whites approach this encounter with quiet confidence.
"In 99 games out of 100 against Bayern, they win. But perhaps the one they don't will be on Wednesday," said captain Patrick Fabian. "We have a plan how to play Bayern and we want to beat them," added Verbeek.
There has been no improvement on the injury front for Bayern. Jerome Boateng, Mehdi Benatia and Javi Martinez are still missing, while new signing Serdar Tasci is expected to miss Wednesday's clash after suffering concussion in training.
But Bayern's fitness problems were addressed in spectacular fashion on Saturday in the 0-0 draw at Leverkusen, with 21-year-old Joshua Kimmich impressing at centre-back. "He's always positive, concentrated and serious," said Guardiola. "His build-up play, his interpretation of certain situations, his distribution to the wings. He can certainly play on this position."
A dream final in Berlin
Hertha Berlin has a complex relationship with the German Cup. The flagship knockout competition, which began in 1928, concludes with a grand finale in Germany's capital city and Hertha's own Olympic Stadium. But previous close shaves with the title are like a shadow hanging over the Old Lady in the tournament.
Hertha's first final defeat in 1977 was in a replay against Cologne, while the second two years later was in extra time against Fortuna Düsseldorf. The club's last appearance in the German Cup final in 1993 was remarkably the reserve team of Hertha. With the Berliners enjoying a superb season, this is the best chance in two decades to reach a final on home turf.
"We dream of the final," said head coach Pal Dardai who will be without the impressive Vladimir Darida for the trip to second division Heidenheim. "This is a tough game against well-organized opponents," cautioned Hertha's coach.
But following a well-earned 0-0 draw at home to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, the Berliners, who sit in third-place, have cause to be optimistic about their chances of reaching the semifinals for the first time since 1981.