The international break probably came at a good time for RB Leipzig as it gave the club time to fully get over their elimination from the Champions League courtesy of the mauling they received at the hands of Manchester City.
The 7-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium was still pretty raw when they faced VfL Bochum on matchday 25 and the 1-0 defeat to the strugglers can partially be put down to the hangover from their chastening loss in England. Die Roten Bullen are going to have to get their heads straight when Mainz come to town on Saturday as the race for the top four heats up.
As it stands Union Berlin and Freiburg hold the slightest advantage with Leipzig currently fifth in the table. Home fixtures are going to be must-wins even though the visit of Mainz will not be easy. Marco Rose face the club he played for 150 times in an eight-year spell, but there will be no love lost on Saturday with three vital Bundesliga points on offer.
This is one of five remaining home games for Leipzig and they will have genuine hope of taking the maximum 15 points with games against Augsburg, Hoffenheim, Werder Bremen and Schalke to come.
The Nullfünfer are themselves in with an outside chance of finishing in the European places and will have gained confidence witnessing the way Bochum caused RB problems last time out.
They arrive at the Red Bull Arena on an unbeaten run of six matches with four wins and two draws. For yet another season the club have successfully manged to steer clear of the relegation fight and continue to cement their place in the top division.
The signing of Ludovic Ajorque has proved an instant hit with the giant striker adding a different string to the Mainz attacking bow. The team has picked up seventeen points from eight games in the second half of the season (at the same point in the first half of the season they had eleven) and with a sustained run of positive results will have the slightest hopes of sneaking into the top six if other teams falter.
Christopher Nkunku suffered a minor thigh strain against Dortmund and is currently unavailable. As planned, Dani Olmo only completed parts of the Spain national team’s final training session ahead of their European qualifier with Scotland and was not in their matchday squad for the game against Scotland. He returned to Leipzig on Wednesday and is expected to be available for Saturday’s game.
Yussuf Poulsen had to pull out of Tuesday’s training session. The Dane picked up a knock to his calf last week, and the striker felt some discomfort again during public training in Leipzig. Mohamed Simakan left from the France U21 team early due to muscular problems and has returned to Leipzig.
Possible line-up: Blaswich – Henrichs, Orban, Gvardiol, Halstenberg – Kampl, Laimer – Szoboszlai, Forsberg – Silva, Werner
For Mainz much will depend on the fitness of the eight players returning from international duty, but there is the possibility that Bo Svensson could send out an unchanged line-up for the third consecutive game. Alternatively key players like Widmer, Kohr, Aaron und Onisiwo could gain a recall.
Possible line-up: Zentner – Hanche-Olsen, Bell, Fernandes – da Costa, Barreiro, Stach, Caci – Ingvartsen, J.-S. Lee – Ajorque
What they’re saying:
Marco Rose: “They’re a very well-organised team. There are not many surprises in store for us; we know what we’re coming up against. They’ll play with a back three and a man-marking system in the middle and use an intense approach. When Mainz attack, they attack with everything and go right until the very end. They try to win balls and have scored goals off the back of that.
“They have target men that they like to use in attack, by looking for a longer pass and then trying to go after the first and second balls. Stach, Lee and Ingvartsen are all dynamic players. They like to switch the ball often; they can do a lot. They also like to play low, flat balls from midfield.
“Therefore, we have to find a good balance. We know what we’re up against. They use a lot of crosses from deep into the final third. If Onisiwo is playing in attack, we have to be alert. Of course, set pieces will be important as well.”
Bo Svensson: “I expect one of the most difficult games of the season. Leipzig are simply good under Marco [Rose], even if they lost a few games recently. We have to do a lot to take something with us. We have to be effective and get a top performance in all phases, you need the right tactics. The bar for us is very high there.”
18/03/23 VfL Bochum (a) 1-0 L (Bundesliga)
14/03/23 Manchester City (a) 7-0 L (Champions League)
11/03/23 Borussia Mönchengladbach (h) 3-0 W (Bundesliga)
03/03/23 Borussia Dortmund (a) 2-1 L (Bundesliga)
25/02/23 Eintracht Frankfurt (h) 2-1 W (Bundesliga)
19/03/23 Freiburg (h) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
11/03/23 Hertha Berlin (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
04/03/23 Hoffenheim (h) 1-0 W (Bundesliga)
24/02/23 Borussia Mönchengladbach (h) 4-0 W (Bundesliga)
19/02/23 Bayer Leverkusen (a) 2-3 W (Bundesliga)
The corresponding fixture on matchday 9 of this season saw the two teams play out a 1-1 draw at the Mewa Arena. Marcus Ingvartsen put the hosts into the lead just on the stroke of half-time. Anton Stach made a strong run forward and his through ball was lashed home by the Dane.
A tight offside call denied Leipzig and equaliser straight after the break, but they weren’t be denied and with ten minutes left Christopher Nkunku rose to head homeMarcel Halstenberg’s left wing delivery.
Players to watch:
Timo Werner didn’t have the best of international breaks with two largely disappointing games for Germany. He started against both Peru and Belgium, but failed to threaten the goal. A confidence-boosting performance in the Bundesliga will help him forget his under-par week and restore the belief that he’s an international class striker.
Marcus Ingvartsen got the goal in the reverse fixture and the Dane has a total of eight for the season as well as two in the DFB Pokal. The 27-year-old has already achieved his best scoring season in the Bundesliga and with nine games left, he’ll be looking to extend that record further still.