FC Kaiserslautern vs Bayer Leverkusen: Preview and Prediction

The 2023/24 DFB Pokal will be on the line when FC Kaiserslautern and Bayer Leverkusen clash at the Olympiastadion Berlin on Saturday.

The curtains will soon fall on the 2023/24 season before two international tournaments greet us this summer. The action in Germany culminates in the coming days, with Saturday bringing us the DFB Pokal final between FC Kaiserslautern and Bayer Leverkusen.

No one would have predicted FC Kaiserslautern to reach the DFB Pokal final. However, they have been the surprise package of the DFB Pokal, although they received a reasonably straightforward pathway to the final, with FC Koln being the only opponent from the Bundesliga.

As for Bayer Leverkusen, they have had a more stringent run, although they also faced only one Bundesliga team — VfB Stuttgart — en route to the final. Meanwhile, Xabi Alonso’s men have enjoyed a near-perfect 2023/24 campaign, winning the Bundesliga title without dropping a game and reaching the final. However, the 3-0 loss to Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League final earlier this week will be the only blot in Die Werkself’s incredible season.

FC Kaiserslautern and Bayer Leverkusen have faced each other six times in the DFB Pokal, with each team winning thrice. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.

Team News

FC Kaiserslautern

Friedhelm Funkel has a few pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the DFB Pokal final. Against Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, the FC Kaiserslautern manager might be bereft of the services of five first-team players.

Hendrick Zuck and Julian Niehues remain in the treatment room due to their respective knee injuries. Meanwhile, Funkel is sweating over the fitness of Jan Elvedi (calf), Ben Zolinski (knee), and Ragna Ache (Achilles).

Julian Krahl should get the nod between the sticks, with FC Kaiserslautern lining up in a 3-4-2-1 formation in front of him against Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. The central defensive unit will likely feature Almamy Toure, Boris Tomiak, and Kevin Kraus. Tymoteusz Puchacz and captain Jean Zimmer will be the two wing-backs.

The wide duo will contribute on both ends of the pitch, dropping deep to create a back five during the defensive phases while providing the width in the final third. As for the midfield unit, Filip Kaloc and Tobias Raschl will aim to keep things tight in the middle of the park. Finally, Daniel Hanslik will lead the line for Kaiserslautern, with Kenny-Prince Redondo and Marlon Ritter completing the numbers in the attack.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Krahl; Toure, Kraus, Tomiak; Zimmer, Kaloc, Raschl, Puchacz; Ritter, Redondo; Hanslik

Bayer Leverkusen

Unlike his counterpart in the FC Kaiserslautern dugout, Xabi Alonso does not have any new issues to deal with before the trip to the Olympiastadion. The Bayer Leverkusen manager will have a full-strength squad on Saturday.

Matej Kovar has been the designated goalkeeper in cup competitions and will retain his spot between the sticks ahead of captain Lukas Hradecky. Bayer Leverkusen will line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation in front of him against FC Kaiserslautern.

The central defensive unit should feature Josip Stanisic, Edmond Tapsoba, and Jonathan Tah, with the latter donning the captain’s armband in the absence of Hradecky. Jeremie Frimpong and Alejandro Grimaldo will be the two wing-backs. The duo will be the creative forces for Die Werkself.

Robert Andrich should get the nod over Exequiel Palacios to be Granit Xhaka’s central midfield partner. Finally, Victor Boniface will likely lead the line instead of this season’s DFB Pokal top scorer Amine Adli, with Florian Wirtz and Jonas Hofmann being the supporting cast.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Kovar; Stanisic, Tah, Tapsoba; Frimpong, Andrich, Xhaka, Grimaldo; Hofmann, Wirtz; Boniface

Key Stats

  • FC Kaiserslautern and Bayer Leverkusen have met six times in the DFB Pokal thus far, with both teams recording three wins each. However, the minnows have managed only three wins from their last 27 competitive encounters with Die Werkself.
  • Bayer Leverkusen are unbeaten in 38 matches against German opposition since a 3-0 loss to Bochum on the final day of the 2023/24 Bundesliga season.
  • FC Kaiserslautern are the first non-Bundesliga club to reach the final since Duisburg in 2010/11. Of 12 such occasions, the team from the lower division has lifted the cup just once.
  • Bayer Leverkusen won the 1992/93 DFB Cup before runners-up finishes in 2001/02, 2008/09 and 2019/20. They can become only the sixth club to win the domestic double in Germany.
  • Amine Adli is this season’s DFB Pokal top scorer, with five goals.

Player to Watch

Victor Boniface

Embed from Getty Images

It has been a stop-start second half of the 2023/24 campaign for Victor Boniface, who was unstoppable in the first few months of the season. However, an untimely injury has hampered his progress, forcing him to share game time with Patrik Schick and Amine Adli since returning from his spell on the sidelines.

Boniface has still enjoyed an exceptional debut season with Bayer Leverkusen and will aim to end it on a high. Amid emerging rumours linking him with Premier League clubs, the Nigerian international will be focused on the job at hand instead of delving into what will happen in the summer. Expect fireworks from Boniface.


FC Kaiserslautern 1-3 Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen will be hurting after the surprise heavy defeat to Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League final. Unfortunately for FC Kaiserslautern, the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions will take their frustrations and anguish out on them.

While the Red Devils will take the game to Bayer Leverkusen and perhaps even find the back of the net, they will not have the quality to sustain that level throughout the ninety minutes. The gulf in quality will become clearer as the minutes progress, paving the way for a convincing win for Bayer Leverkusen. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for Xabi Alonso and his charges.

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