Bundesliga match preview: Bayer Leverkusen v Mainz

The Leverkusen juggernaut just keeps going as they maintained their unbeaten run this season last week with a highly professional performance away at Heidenheim. Xabi Alonso’s side equalled the record set by the Bayern side of Hansi Flick, which also went 32 competitive fixtures unbeaten across 2019/20 and 2020/21, and have the opportunity to go one better when they face Mainz on Friday to open the matchday 23 action.

The 2-1 victory at the Voith Arena combined with the Rekordmeister’s shock defeat at VfL Bochum means the Werkself now have an eight-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga table and talk of the title will be hard to keep off the table from here on in.

Focus will however have to be maintained, which won’t be easy with all the speculation currently doing the rounds concerning coach Alonso. It is already being seen as a foregone conclusion in some circles that the Spaniard’s future lies at either Liverpool or Bayern next season, but the future needs to be put on the back burner for now as the Rhine club put all their attention on finally ridding themselves of their ‘Neverkusen’ nickname. 

The club managed to maintain their course when they lost five key players to the African Cup of Nations and the squad players brought in, who had previously played a minor role, stepped up to the plate and helped maintain the high standards set in the first half of the season. Piero Hincapie, Josip Stanisic, Patrik Schick, Robert Andrich and Nathan Tella have all come in and delivered.

Embed from Getty Images

Mainz find themselves in a completely different boat to Bayer Leverkusen with Bundesliga survival their only focus. Two coaching changes this season is a clear indication that all is not well and the Nullfünfer continue to find themselves in the bottom two with just twelve games remaining.

New coach Bo Henriksen did get the ideal reaction in his first game in charge last weekend at home to Augsburg, but the same thing happened to Jan Siewert before he then went eleven matches without another victory. The visitors will however relish the role of potential party-poopers and will think back to the final day of last season when they spoiled the Borussia Dortmund title party at the Signal Iduna Park. A 3-2 win at the Bay Arena towards the end of last season will also give them the confidence that another upset could be possible.  

This is the first of three very tricky away matches for Mainz with trips to Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig to follow their visit to the Bay Arena. 

Team news:

Bayer Leverkusen:

Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Wikipedia

With his players back from international duty, trainer Xabi Alonso has more choices. Josip Stanisic could be an option in the back three, as could Edmond Tapsoba. Exequiel Palacios has returned to training, but a return against Mainz will come too soon for the Argentine midfielder. Borja Iglesias might be given the chance up front instead of Schick.  

Possible line-up: Hradecky – Kossounou, Tah, Hincapie – Frimpong, Andrich, Xhaka, Grimaldo – Adli, Schick, Wirtz


File:FSV Mainz 05 Logo.png - Wikipedia

Illness is still ravaging the Mainz squad with Ludovic Ajorque, Danny da Costa, Jonathan Burkhardt and Marco Richter now infected, although Tom Krauß has recovered and could return to the squad. 

Stefan Bell, Edmilson Fernandes, Andreas Hanche-Olsen and Nelson Weiper are all unavailable to Bo Henriksen through injury.  

Possible line-up: Zentner – Kohr, van den Berg, Guilavogui – Mwene, Barreiro, Amiri, Caci – Gruda, J.-S. Lee – Onisiwo

What they’re saying:

Bayer Leverkusen

Xabi Alonso: “The last training session is behind us, we are well prepared for the game tomorrow. We have almost all players with very good energy and mood. Exequiel Palacios trained well yesterday and today, but it’s not enough for tomorrow.

“Bo Henriksen’s teams always perform with a lot of energy and intensity. They showed that in the last game against Augsburg. We expect a good opponent and don’t want to repeat the home defeat from last season.

“I don’t look at the table, but I know what we want. We are not thinking about May but rather about how we can achieve our goals in this current period. We are focusing on the current opponent and the goal is clear: we want to win.”

Embed from Getty Images


Bo Henriksen: “We believe in ourselves and I’ve seen bigger surprises in football than us winning on Friday. The players will be ready. Today’s training session showed that they want to get stuck in and would like to be active rather than passive. The intensity needs to be as high because we need aggression. I hate it when you just hope and wait – you need to believe in your chances.

“They’re a great team, who we have a lot of respect for. We know how they can play if we let them. We will lose if they have 80 percent possession. If we go there, have faith in ourselves and stick together, then I’m confident that we’ll be able to get something. That’s our aim. We’re not going there just to defend. We also want to attack. 

“Otherwise, it’ll be just a matter of time before they punish our passiveness. I’m very pleased because the boys showed a side of themselves on Saturday that I liked. This experience, together with our courage, is our most dangerous weapon.”

Embed from Getty Images


Bayer Leverkusen

17/02/24  Heidenheim (a) 1-2 W  (Bundesliga)

10/02/24  Bayern Munich (a) 3-0 W  (Bundesliga)

06/02/24  VfB Stuttgart (h) 3-2 W  (DFB Pokal)

03/02/24  Darmstadt (a) 0-2 W  (Bundesliga)

27/01/24  Borussia Mönchengladbach (h) 0-0 D  (Bundesliga)


17/02/24  Augsburg (h) 1-0 W  (Bundesliga

11/02/24  VfB Stuttgart (a) 3-1 L  (Bundesliga)

07/02/24  Union Berlin (h) 1-1 D  (Bundesliga)

03/02/24  Werder Bremen (h) 0-1 W  (Bundesliga)

26/01/24  Eintracht Frankfurt (a) 1-0 L  (Bundesliga)

Last time:

The corresponding fixture last season at the Bay Arena took place on matchday 21 and it certainly wasn’t a dull affair with Mainz emerging with a 3-2 victory in a match where the hosts twice came from behind, had a man sent off and also missed a penalty.

The Werkself were made to pay for a 23rd minute penalty miss from Edmond Tapsoba when Anthony Caci scored minutes later. Nadiem Amiri levelled things only for a Leandro Barreiro goal in stoppage time to send the visitors in at half time with the lead. A second equaliser ensued via Patrik Schick, but the Nullfünfer regained the lead in the 82nd minute when Marcus Ingvartsen scored from the penalty spot after Amine Adli had brought down Silvan Widmer and been given his marching orders.

There was a hectic finish to the game as Leverkusen chased a third equaliser with referee Robert Schröder showing six yellow cards.

Players to watch:

Bayer Leverkusen

The pumping heart of the Leverkusen side, Granit Xhaka will once again be instrumental in setting the tempo and leading by example. Expect to see some interesting encounters with Mainz hardman Dominik Kohr and could we at last see a first Xhaka goal. During seven seasons at Arsenal the Swiss midfielder generally got at least per season, but thus far he is yet to find the back of the net (not that it’s affected B04 too much). 


As a former Leverkusen player Nadiem Amiri will have a point to prove when he returns to the Bay Arena on Friday. He joined Mainz in the winter transfer window for €1 million after being limited to just one start and handful of tiny substitute appearances in the first half of the campaign with Leverkusen. He provided the assist last week for Sepp van den Berg’s winning header, but also missed a penalty.  

Embed from Getty Images

About Mathew Burt 1058 Articles
Former writer at Goal.com and JustFootball, I've been doing my thing for Bundesliga Fanatic since 2015. A long-suffering Werder Bremen fan and disciple of the Germanic holy trinity...Bier. Wurst und Fußball

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.