It’s matchday nine and Mainz host RB Leipzig at the Mewa Arena with both sides on eleven points for the season with an identical record of three wins, three defeats and three draws. This is more a case of RB Leipzig underperforming than Mainz overperforming though and after two wins on the bounce the visitors will be looking to edge ahead of their hosts in the table.
Since Marco Rose took over at the Red Bull Arena there has been an upturn in form with the loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach the only blip. An initial win over Borussia Dortmund on his first game was added to with an easy win last time out at home to Bochum. A midweek Champions League win against Celtic has added to the positivity surrounding the club and they will want to take that into their trip to Mainz this weekend.
Defender Abdou Diallo will face his former side if selected by trainer Marco Rose. The French centre back had a season with the Nullfünfer in 2017-18 before a €28 million move to Dortmund and a subsequent spell with Paris St, Germain.
“It’s something special, but it’s not the first time, I’ve already played against Mainz with Dortmund. But I’m always happy to come back to this wonderful stadium with this great atmosphere. I’m looking forward to playing against them again and I’m sure to see some familiar faces again.”
Bo Svensson will want to get his Mainz side going again after only taking one point from their last three Bundesliga outings. A draw with Hertha Berlin has been sandwiched by defeats to Freiburg and Hoffenheim with a friendly loss to Karlsruher SC thrown in during the international break.
The win over Borussia Mönchengladbach seems an age away and that is where Svensson wants to get his side back to. The visit of Leipzig though will be a real test.
Alexander Hack returns after his suspension for his previous red card, while Maxim Leitsch should have recovered from his thigh injury to take his place in the back three. Marlon Mustapha is the only long-term injury absentee.
Possible line-up: Zentner, Bell, Hack, Leitsch, Widmer, Barreiro, Kohr, Aaron, Stach, Burkardt, Onisiwo
Peter Gulacsi suffered a serious anterior cruciate ligament tear in his right knee against Celtic and will be out long-term. Janis Blaswich will fill in for the second time this season.
There will be some squad rotation following the exertions of midweek Champions League action, although a return to the starting XI will come too soon for Yussuf Poulsen. Dani Olmo, Lukas Klostermann and Konrad Laimer remain longer-tern absentees.
Possible line-up: Blaswich, Henrichs, Orban, Diallo, Halstenberg, Haidara, Schlager, Forsberg, Werner, Nkunku, Silva
What they’re saying:
Bo Svensson: “We trained extremely hard the last two days. So, I felt that the boys should do a little less today, so they could be as fresh as possible come Saturday.
“Leipzig lost a great goalkeeper with Gulácsi’s injury, something like that is always unfortunate. I wish him a speedy recovery. Marlon Mustapha remains unavailable for selection. Other than him, everyone was on the pitch and trained. Marcus was a little limited in what he could do but completed a large part.”
Marco Rose: “Mainz are doing great work. They have built a really good squad with physically strong players. We will come up against a very aggressive side – that’s what Mainz are about. We have to find the little space that Mainz will afford us and make the most of it. It will be a tight game, as Mainz will press hard and attack us.
“We have won back-to-back games and performed well. We know that we have a lot of matches ahead, eleven in five weeks. The Mainz game is the first obstacle.”
01.10.22 Freiburg (a) 2-1 L (Bundesliga
16.09.22 Hertha Berlin (h) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
10.09.22 Hoffenheim (a) 4-1 L (Bundesliga)
04.09.22 Borussia Mönchengladbach (a) 0-1 W (Bundesliga)
27.08.22 Bayer Leverkusen (h) 0-3 L (Bundesliga)
05.10.22 Celtic (h) 3-1 W (Champions League)
01.10.22 VfL Bochum (h) 4-0 W (Bundesliga)
17.09.22 Borussia Mönchengladbach (a) 3-0 L (Bundesliga)
14.09.22 Real Madrid (a) 2-0 L (Champions League)
10.09.22 Borussia Dortmund (h) 3-0 W (Bundesliga)
The corresponding fixture last season saw a 1-0 victory for Mainz at the Mewa Arena on matchday 1 of the new season in a match which the scoreline doesn’t fully reflect.
The Nullfünfer stunned one of the title aspirants thanks to a 13th minute Moussa Niakhate goal and spoilt Jesse Marsch’s debut as die Roten Bullen’s new coach. A Covid outbreak had seen 14 people having to isolate in the Mainz squad (including star striker Karim Onisiwo), so the team Bo Svensson sent out was far from full strength.
Players to watch:
The German U-21 captain Jonathan Burkardt has returned from a toe injury and is raring to go having scored 11 goals last season. He contributed an assist (of sorts) last week against Freiburg but will want to start adding goals to his account sooner rather than later.
Christopher Nkunku has grabbed plenty of headlines this week and not for anything he’s done on the pitch. If media reports are to be believed, the Frenchman has already had a medical with Chelsea and signed a pre-contract agreement with the Premier League side to join them next summer.
Following the reports Nkunku scored Leipzig’s opener against Celtic in their midweek Champions League match to go alongside the two goals he scored last week against Bochum. Whether it is on or off the pitch, Nkunku is certainly oner to watch at the moment.