Goal.com previews Mainz’s showdown with Schalke.
After experiencing a blistering start to their Bundesliga campaign, Mainz have since cooled off, losing five of their last eight matches. In spite of their poor run of form, the “oh fives” still remain second in the Bundesliga table, with a respectable 30 points from 15 matches. After playing so well for so long, Thomas Tuchel’s men will hope to make a statement by finishing the fall term behind only leaders Dortmund in the Bundesliga table.
In spite of his team’s superior table position, Tuchel has labeled Mainz underdogs ahead of the Schalke clash:
“Despite the current situation, this match has for years been a battle between David and Goliath,” the coach told reporters in a pre-match press conference.
“But Schalke should prepare themselves; we might pull off a surprise.”
That surprise may be catalysed by wild card Lewis Holtby, who will be keen to perform against the club that sent him to Mainz on loan. The 20-year old playmaker has been a standout star this season, and Tuchel has yet to rule out a starting role for his “wild card,” who could prove to be trump.
Schalke Finding Rhythm At Long Last
It truly has been a roller coaster year for Schalke, but die Koenigsblauen are decidedly trending upwards. Their 5-0 loss to Kaiserslautern in late November has proven to be an outlier, having been straddled on either side by two convincing victories.
Over the last week, Felix Magath’s men earned a 2-0 domestic win against reigning champions Bayern Munich, and later a 1-2 triumph away to Benfica that saw the Gelsenkirchen side top their Champions League group. Should they win their next two matches, Felix Magath’s men could even finish the 2010 calendar year in the top half of the table, leaving a gimmer of a hope of securing a Champions League berth by May.
Ahead of this weekend’s encounter with Mainz, Jose Jurado insisted that his team are better than their record indicates, and have finally established a rhythm.
“We’re better than the table suggests and we’ve shown that in the last game,” the Spanish midfielder told reporters on Thursday. We now have a certain consistency to our game and we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure it stays that way.”
Jurado also made it clear that die Knappen have only Mainz on their minds: “We’re taking things one step at a time and simply focusing on the next game.”
Thomas Tuchel is expected to use a line-up similar to that which has regularly featured in recent weeks. Radoslav Zabavnik is suspended, however, and will be replaced by Florian Heller. Additionally, Sami Allagui is tipped to start ahead of Adam Szalai. Tuchel will be unable to call upon Jan Simak and Bo Svensson due to lack of fitness.
Probable Starting XI: Wetklo – Heller, Bungert, Noveski, Fathi – Caligiuri, Polanski – Risse, Fuchs – Schuerrle – Allagui
No new injuries were reported after the Benfica match, and Felix Magath is expected to use the same starting line-up on Sunday. Jermaine Jones, Alexander Baumjohann and Hans Sarpei all remain banished in the reserves, and will not feature. Additionally, Christoph Moritz, Tim Hoogland, and Levan Kenia have been ruled out with injuries.
Probable Starting XI: Neuer – Uchida, Hoewedes, Metzelder, Schmitz – Farfan, Kluge, Rakitic, Jurado – Raul, Huntelaar