Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal says the German Cup holders need to beat Schalke in Wednesday's semi-final to ease the pain of last weekend's league defeat at home to Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund beat Bayern 3-1 win on Saturday which left the losers 16 points adrift and the winners on course for their first league title since 2002.
Second division sides Duisburg and Energie Cottbus clash on Tuesday for the right to play either Schalke or Bayern in the May 21 final.
"My team must win," said van Gaal.
"It is also a matter of life or death. Schalke also want to qualify for European competition and it will be difficult if they lose to us."
There is plenty of history between the Bavarian giants and Schalke.
Royal Blues' coach Felix Magath was sacked by Bayern four years ago, despite leading Munich to the domestic double in both of the previous seasons.
Magath is under pressure with Schalke tenth in the league and his side were beaten at home by Munich after extra-time, thanks to a wondergoal from Dutch winger Arjen Robben, at the same stage in the competition last season.
"It's a chance for us to lift a trophy this season because the winners will meet a second-division side in the final," said Magath.
"Winning the German Cup would mean we would qualify for Europe next season, but the semi-final draw handed us the hardest possible tie.
"It's a tough one to crack."
Bayern's stars are still licking their wounds from Saturday's battering by Dortmund.
"Just moving on isn't that easy," admitted Germany star Thomas Mueller.
"It keeps coming back to haunt you, it's gnawing away at all of us."
Bayern's Germany captain Philipp Lahm said the Dortmund defeat was still affecting him.
"You're turning things over in your mind and not sleeping well," he admitted.
"We need to find a balance between playing it out from the back and avoiding risk. There are occasions where we should simply belt it clear."
The Cup semi-final gives Bayern a chance to get back on the pitch and exorcise some of the ghosts from Saturday's Dortmund defeat.
"It's good we play again as soon as Wednesday," said Mueller.
"We're all fired up. Schalke can be the only thing on our minds."