Sixty-four teams have been whittled down to just four in the German Cup. Schalke snagged the last ticket with a narrow win over Wolfsburg, ensuring a first semifinals appearance since 2011.
With Schalke now completing the final four, the sides sat in first, second, fifth and sixth in the Bundesliga remain in the German Cup, while Leipzig in third and Dortmund in fourth both fell short against league leaders Bayern Munich.
You could look at the competition as the three little pigs against the big bad wolf, but Schalke, like Leverkusen and Frankfurt, are not without title-winning credentials. All three sides are showing great promise in various stages of their development, but there are short-term gains to be made.
Schalke tick the right boxes
Against Wolfsburg, Domenico Tedesco’s charges executed a near-perfect gameplan. Their tactical approach nullified any threat posed by Wolfsburg, while Guido Burgstaller opened his account in 2018.
“I can’t remember any really big chances from Wolfsburg,” Schalke’s Max Meyer said after the game. “We thrive on taking an early lead. We all dream of getting to Berlin. We’d rather avoid an extra trip to Munich if we can, but if that’s who we’re drawn against we won’t shy away from the challenge no matter how brutal it is.”
The Royal Blues’ first priority is to get themselves back into Europe. While they may not need to rely on it, the cup offers an avenue to achieving their season’s targets.
There’s barely a hint of the side that lifted the German Cup in 2011 left in the current crop of Schalke stars, but they aren’t that far removed from being ready to etch their names in the Royal Blues’ history books in their own right if they can maintain their current trajectory.
Schalke 1-0 Wolfsburg: As it happened:
Next up for Schalke, the unenviable task of taking on league leaders Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Saturday evening. Wolfsburg get an extra days rest ahead of their relegation six-pointer with Werder Bremen.
It's all over! It wasn't the prettiest performance Schalke have produced this season, but it got the job done. The Royal Blues are back in the semifinals of the German Cp for the first time since 2009 thanks to Brugstaller's goal ten minutes into their clash with Wolfsburg. The visitors didn't do enough in front of goal and will head home disappointed. For Schalke this is just another high note in Tedesco's concerto.
88' - The way this game has been played out in the last 10 minutes can be summarised like this: Football, foul, free-kick, football, misplaced pass, football, misplaced pass, football, chance, football, foul, free-kick, football, misplaced pass.
85' - CHAOS IN THE SCHALKE BOX! Schalke struggle to deal with a Wolfsburg free-kick and Osimhen and Didavi both keep the ball in the mix with knock ons and knock backs, but goretzka heads clear off the line allowing the hosts to scramble out. HEARTS. IN. MOUTHS!
80' - I don't mean to be too harsh on these two sides, but Werder Bremen were more deserving of a spot in the German Cup semis. Just saying.
76' - Given that there's not much going on in the game right now, I'll take a moment to wax lyrical about Schalke's Harit. The young Frenchman has been one of my favourite players to watch this season. Technically gifted, pacey and always with a trick up his sleeve, he has been one of the signings of the season. Hopefully Schalke can hold on to him long-term. If he maintains his current trajectory, suitors will come calling.
73' - GOOD EFFORT! With nothing uch on for him, William finds a pocket of space 25 yards out from goal before unleashing a powerful drive that fails to find the target. Not bad, but Wolfsburg need better.
72' - To be fair we were spoiled rotten with cup thrills and spills last night, but something isn't clicking for either Wolfsburg and Schalke in the second half here in Gelsenkirchen. As I write that, the Royal Blues break, four-on-three and Burgstaller passes it... to a Wolfsburg player. Synonymous with how this game has gone since the break. Promise with no end product.
67' - TEMPTED TO AGREE
61' - With just over an hour played, it's fair to say that Schalke deserve to be in front against Wolfsburg. They've produced the better performance, remained relatively untroubled at the back and been more clinical in front of goal. However, a one-goal lead is never a comfortable position to be in, especially in a knockout cup tie.
57' - Wolfsburg are going to be forced into a change. Tisserand and Goretzka tangle during a foot race and the Wolves left-back pulls up before immediately signalling the need to come off. It looks like a hamstring injury.
51' - NO NALDO SPECIAL! Schalke are awarded a free-kick 35 yards from goal for a foul on Harit. The fans get what they want as Naldo goes for goal, bending an effort wide of the target. German commentator Wolff-Christoph fuss claims Naldo's free-kick's are "49% technique, 51% power". The power percentage is a bit low there!
49' - EASY SAVE! The first chance of the second half goes the way of the visitors. Malli bursts forward from midfield and chances his arm from range. His shot is straight at Fährmann though and the Royal Blues' No1 makes easy work of collecting.
The action is back underway at the Veltins Arena. There's just one goal in the game right now which means it's still all to play for with a semi-final spot on the line. Can Wolfsburg come from behind or will Schalke see it out. Remember, it was Origi who scored a 90th-minute equalizer when these two sides emt on Matchday 10.
Below is what Kevin-Prince Boateng had to say after Frankfurt knocked Mainz out of the German Cup earlier this evening, but if you want to read what I made of the game then click here: Frankfurt in the ascendancy as Berlin and Europe beckon!
Schalke lead at the break thanks to Guido Burgstaller's first goal in 2018 - check it out below. Wolfsburg have been ambitious without producing much of an end product. Malli crashed an effort of the bar against the run of play, but the visitors need to create more of a susatined threat in the second half.
39' - Chances have dried up as we approach half-time. Schalke will undoubtedly be the happier of the two sides. Not only are the in front, but they've kept Wolfsburg quiet in front of goal, but for two quickfire chances.
33' - SCORING ON YOUR RETURN TO THE STARTING LINE-UP IS FUN...
30' - Schalke have certainly taken their foot of the pedal in the last 10 minutes or so. The problem right now is that Wolfsburg haven't been able to capitalize.
26' - CLOSE AGAIN! This time it's Arnold's turn to fizz in an effort at goal as his snapshot drifts wide of the target. This is better from Wolfsburg though.
25' - WOODWORK! Wolfsburg's corner is headed clear by Naldo, but only as far as Malli who crashes an effort off the underside of the bar with Fährmann stranded. No buzz on the referee's watch and replays show it didn't fully cross the line. What a let off for Schalke.
24' - GREAT SAVE! Wolfsburg go agonizingly close to an equalizer as Mehmedi whips in a free-kick towards the back post. The ball floats over every, but dips dangerously towards goal forcing Ralf Fährmann to make a fine reflex save.
20' - Schalke are starting to control procedings with the lead on their side. Wolfsburg keep trying to spread the play, but are too often going side to side instead of pushing forward. Origi is looking rather isolated. All it take sis one chance though.
15' - CHANCE! Arnold loses out in midfield as Burgstaller almost turns provider, playing in Pjaca who drags his shot wide of the far post. Schalke have come alive since breaking the deadlock. Wolfsburg are struggling to find an answer to the onslaught.
13' - CUP FEVER!
10' - GOAL SCHALKE LEAD! All that changes in the blink of an eye! A promising Wolfsburg attack is snuffed out by Schalke, who break at pace. Pjaca picks up a loose ball in midfield and immediately releases Burgstaller in behind. The striker takes the ball in his stride, check his run twice before finding the bottom corner.
8' - Aside from an early Oczipka free-kick which amounted to nothing in his search to pick out Naldo, Schalke haven't seen much of the ball. Their most promising spell of possession peters out as the result of a sloppy pass in the final third. The hosts haven't quite found their rhythm yet.
5' - Both sides are feeling each other out in the opening exchanges. Wolfsburg managed to break a few moments ago, but despite moving the ball around patiently, failed to produce a notable chance on goal.
The ball is rolling in Gelsenkirchen. Both of these sides have won this competition in the last decade. For Schalke, a win tonight would see them make their first appearance in the semis since they lifted the trophy in 2011. Wolfsburg, meanwhile, are eyeing their fourth crack at the final four in the last 10 years.
20:40 Cup Fever Part 2!
Three tickets to Berlin have already been booked and, with one spot in the final four left, Schalke and Wolfsburg are set to duke it out at the Veltins Arena.
This encounter ended in a 1-1 draw when they met on Matchday 10 with Divock Origi scoring a 90th-minute equalizer. There's no sharing the spoils tonight though!
20:32 TEAM NEWS - WOLFSBURG!
And the starting XI for the visitors...
20.30 TEAM NEWS - SCHALKE!
This is how Schalke line up tonight to face Wolfsburg...