On paper, it looks like a fairly even game. Five-time DFB-Pokal winners Schalke come up against two-time winners Fortuna Düsseldorf on Wednesday evening (20:45 CET), and the clubs are only two places apart in the Bundesliga table. Whilst Friedhelm Funkel’s team will be glad they are not in the relegation zone, Schalke would have planned their first half of the season a lot differently.
However, winning the cup means you qualify for Europe and this is something that Schalke are very familiar with. The last time they managed this was eight years ago, in the 2010/11 season. Last year, Schalke lost 1-0 at home to eventual champions Eintracht Frankfurt. They had better fortunes in the second round this year, progressing thanks to penalties against 2. Bundesliga side 1. FC Köln.
Düsseldorf won convincingly against lower-league sides in the first two rounds of this year’s competition, and have opened up a gap between themselves and the relegation zone thanks to winning run in the Bundesliga. Fortuna won the Pokal in 1979 and 1980, also getting to the quarter-final a year later. The side currently hold the record for the most DFB-Pokal victories in a row, with 18.
However, they have not had much success in the competition recently. In the last five years in a row, Fortuna have crashed out in the first of second round of the cup, sometimes with crushing defeats to league rivals. The last time they got to the round-of-16 was in 1995/96. When playing each other in the Pokal, neither side has yet recorded an away victory.
Schalke won 2-1 in Düsseldorf in the Hinrunde, and the sides meet again at the start of March. With the DFB-Pokal clash on Wednesday, Kaan Ayhan returns to the home of his former employers for the first time since leaving.