If this season’s Bundesliga was decided solely on the second half of the season, Borussia Dortmund would be champions and Hertha Berlin would go down as the bottom placed team. The biggest surprise however would be a top three finish for Mainz and Champions League football. As it is the season is decided over 34 matches, but the Nullfünfer still remarkably have their sights set on a top six finish this season.
At the start of every season the target for Mainz is Bundesliga survival and more often than not they defy the odds and comfortably avoid getting dragged into the relegation dogfight. In terms of size and financial clout they are by no means a Bundesliga heavyweight, but always seem to have more than a fighting chance.
Bo Svensson’s side are currently enjoying a highly positive run in the Rückrunde, which has seen them win six and draw four of their eleven games since the restart and their only defeat came against Union Berlin. Only Bayern and Dortmund have scored more, while only Union Berlin and Schalke have conceded less.
Not since the 2015/16 season have the Zero-Fivers enjoyed a serious tilt at Europe, but on current form it is a real possibility this season. Only Stefan Bell and Karim Onisiwo remain from the last side to reach Europe under Martin Schmidt (now sporting director), but it has very astute transfer business that has put Mainz in the favourable position they now find themselves.
Winter signings Ludovic Ajorque and defender Andreas Hanche Olsen have made an instant impact, while the summer arrivals Marcus Ingvartsen, Dominik Kohr and Danny da Costa have made a major contribution in their first season at the Mewa Arena. Danish striker Ingvartsen has a career high nine Bundesliga goals (joint top-scorer) with Onisiwo, while Ajorque has already scored five in his first twelve games.
Jae-Sung Lee is enjoying a fine season, while veteran Bell is still a major factor in the defence. The club have highly promising teenager Nelson Weiper pushing hard for more minutes and have dealt well with the prolonged absence of Jonathan Burkhardt through injury.
Mainz face Bayern Munich at home this weekend and could play a massive part in the final destiny of the Meisterschale. They have revenge on their minds having been knocked out of the DFB Pokal by the Bavarians and having lost the reverse fixture at the Allianz Arena 6-2. The club will be buoyed by the fact that the corresponding fixture last season saw the Nullfünfer beat the champions-elect 3-1 and they know that on their day they can pull off a repeat performance (BVB fans will have their fingers and toes crossed).
Captain Silvan Widmer is keeping his feet on the ground, but knows just why it’s currently working so well. “At the moment, we are managing to consistently perform on the pitch, no matter which opposition we face and what the current situation is. We are doing our thing and believe in our own abilities.”
Mainz are currently competing with Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt for the top six places. The Werkself have the added burden of their Europa League while Frankfurt aren’t called the ‘Launische Diva’ for nothing and are far from their best right now. They still have to play the Adler this season away.
Mainz’s final match this season is away to Borussia Dortmund. If (and it’s a massive if) BVB are crowned Bundesliga champions at the Signal Iduna Park, Mainz too will want to be celebrating their own triumph of achieving European football.