Lars Ricken is not under any illusions. "We know that it'll be a very difficult and intense game. Schalke coach Norbert Elgert has already announced that his team will give everything to save their honour," said Borussia Dortmund's youth coordinator, who is expecting a tough task for his U19s in the German Championship semi-final second leg on Sunday (11:00 CET, Parkstadion Gelsenkirchen, live on sky). The 5-1 first-leg result is a healthy lead, "but not a cushion to rest on".
On the other hand, continued Ricken, "we know our team and the coach very well. We know that the players will not run a step less." Mike Tullberg has been specifically preparing the team for the second leg of the semi-final this week. "It's half-time and the European competitions this season have shown what is possible in knockout games. Schalke have nothing left to lose ", said Tullberg, who remains indefatigable in his pursuit of total concentration.
Caution should therefore be exercised. Especially given Mike Tullberg's displeasure with the way the first half went last week. "No pace, no intensity, too few runs in behind, too many easy mistakes," bemoaned the tactician, who is now calling upon his charges to repeat their second-half performance in Gelsenkirchen. "When quality and mentality combine, you get a result like that. I liked the fact that the team didn't let up after going 2-1 up and kept going," said Lars Ricken, who was delighted with the "top performance" that followed.
"Our objective at the start of the season was to play as many competitive games as possible in domestic competitions. Now we're on the verge of achieving the maximum possible," said Mike Tullberg, who emphasised: "We're preparing in serious fashion and want to win the second leg as well." Under his tutelage, the U19s are yet to lose a game and have only been held to a draw twice. Despite this impressive record, which is probably unique in junior football, and despite the fact that almost all the signs point towards a place in the final, he is not wasting any time thinking about the German Championship final or the DFB-Pokal final against VfB Stuttgart in Potsdam on Friday 20 May. "The only thing that matters now is that we qualify for the final. Everything else doesn't matter yet," declared Tullberg.
Abdoulaye Kamara is still suffering from the after-effects of his injury. Samuel Bamba, who was recently sidelined with a muscle injury in his thigh, is back in team training and could return to the squad. Captain Dennis Lütke-Frie is still out after groin surgery, however. Farouk Cisse, Bekir El-Zein and Michel Ludwig are the first-choice replacements.
The second semi-final will be contested by Hertha BSC and FC Augsburg on Saturday (11:00 CET, live on sky). Having triumphed 3-1 in the first leg, the men from Berlin are best-placed to reach the final – as they did four years ago – and would then enjoy home advantage on 29 May.