The four-time German against the eight-time East German soccer champion, a high-risk game, a newly committed against an ailing coach – and all “uffm Betze”, as the people of Palatinate say. Almost 50,000 fans are expected on Friday (8.30 p.m. / Sat.1 and Sky) for the highly explosive first relegation game between third division third party 1. FC Kaiserslautern and second division third bottom Dynamo Dresden.

“We have to stay cool and switch on our brains,” warned the new FCK coach Dirk Schuster in view of the cauldron at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion on the legendary Betzenberg. The game has long been sold out with 46,895 spectators. Capacity is limited due to a buffer zone on the east stand between the two groups of fans. The police have been alerted and are on the move with a large contingent: in 2013 there were serious riots when the two clubs met. The city administration set up a “glass-free zone” and issued an alcohol ban. Around 5,000 fans are expected from Dresden, the second leg is on Tuesday.

In Lautern, football fever has skyrocketed again after years that have been very difficult – financially and sportingly – since relegation from the Oberhaus in 2012. Most recently, the Red Devils played against 1. FC Saarbrücken and Borussia Dortmund II in front of over 45,000 fans.

To the great disappointment of the annex, however, the team under Marco Antwerpen messed up direct promotion with three defeats at the end of the season. In response, the traditional club changed coaches shortly before the relegation. Schuster came after a one-year break after leaving FC Erzgebirge Aue with enthusiasm. In 2014 he achieved the feat with Darmstadt 98, after a 1:3 in the relegation first leg against Arminia Bielefeld, with a 4:2 in the second leg in the second division. A year later, the native of Chemnitz even marched through to the first division with the lilies.

“He knows what’s coming. That can certainly help us, it can add up to a few percentage points,” says Captain Jean Zimmer. “But we are the decision-makers on the pitch – and he didn’t have much time either.”

In contrast to Antwerp, Schuster’s Dresden colleague Guerino Capretti was able to save his job in the relegation: the German-Italian has not won any of his ten games since he started at Dynamo in early March. In Dresden, his commitment as the successor to Alexander Schmidt was viewed with suspicion, as the 40-year-old had previously only managed lower-league clubs. Dynamo has not finished a single competitive game with a three-pointer in 2022 and Dresden are the first club to play this relegation for the third time. In 2011 Dynamo prevailed as a third division team against VfL Osnabrück, two years later as a second division team against the same opponent.

FCK veteran Zimmer takes a pragmatic view of all the accompanying circumstances: “Everything to zero! That’s exactly the charm of these games.” Chris Löwe knows what it’s like when the Betze is on fire. “I got to know him over the years as a homestead. With everything that goes with it, it’s the toughest opponent we could face,” says the ex-Lauterer in the Dresden dress. Dynamo sports director Ralf Becker does not even downplay the importance of the relegation. “The two most important games of the last five to ten years will take place in the next seven days,” says the ex-professional.