Die Nullfuenfer travel to the Werder aiming to protect their perfect record...
After three rounds of matches in the Bundesliga, only two sides can still boast perfect records. Hoffenheim may top the table with nine points from a potential nine, but hot on their tails are Mainz, who have yet to spill any marks and who travel to Werder Bremen this weekend for one of the Bundesliga’s highlight fixtures of Matchday 3.
Thomas Schaaf’s side will be intent on doing all they can to prevent their opponents from making it a spotless four from four. Werder finished last term in third position, earning a spot in the Champions League in the process, but have started this campaign in middling form, splitting their first three matches equally with a win, a draw and a defeat.
In midweek the Germans pitted themselves against Tottenham Hotspur in Europe’s premier competition, and despite falling behind 2-0 to give themselves a mountain to climb, bounced back superbly to pick up a 2-2 tie.
“I was annoyed by many things: we were too passive,” Schaaf grumbled, before comparing Werder’s performance with that they produced during their 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich the previous weekend. “Everything that was good about Saturday in Munich was gone.
“In the end we can be happy to have come from behind, although we could have won it in the end.”
A more ‘up and at ‘em’ performance will be demanded by the coach on Saturday as the Weserstadion club attempt to give themselves a real toehold near the summit of what promises to be a fiercely competitive league.
Mainz have made an exceptionally positive start to their campaign, picking up three tremendous victories to give themselves the best possible platform to attack the remainder of the season.
On the opening day of the campaign Thomas Tuchel’s side managed to wrestle a 2-0 victory from Stuttgart at home before travelling to Wolfsburg the following week to get the best of a seven-goal slugfest. A hat-trick of season opening victories was completed as they downed Kaiserslautern 2-1 last weekend, with the crucial goals coming from Niko Bungert and Andre Schuerrle.
“Werder Bremen are strong opponents with superior quality individuals [to us],” Tuchel confessed to his side’s official website. “Even the bench is occupied by players at the Champions League level. In addition, they have flexibility.
“We must find a system with which we can not only get the ball off the enemy, but one that makes us even more potent, hurting him offensively.
“The hurdle is high.”
Already Mainz have shown themselves to be no pushovers this term, having gelled together effectively as a strong unit, with youngsters such as Lewis Holtby and Schuerrle leading the early season charge.
Enthusiasm alone will not be enough to defeat Werder, but Tuchel’s side should not be underestimated.
Thomas Schaaf is still without his first-choice centreback pairing of Naldo (knee) and Per Mertesacker (broken cheekbone) as well as first-choice striker Claudio Pizarro, who has a thigh strain. Bremen look set to continue with the diamond system they employed against Spurs with Aaron Hunt replacing Philipp Bargfrede in midfield.
Probable Starting XI: Wiese - Fritz, Pasanen, Proedl, Silvestre - Frings - Marin, Hunt - Wesley - Arnautovic, Hugo Almeida
The visitors are still without their number-one goalkeeper Heinz Mueller, who is undergoing rehabilitation after a knee problem. Their only other absentee is experienced midfielder Jan Simak who is suffering with a back injury. Thomas Tuckel has a luxury of options at the back with Radoslav Zabavnik and Niko Bungert also coming into strong contention for a starting place in Bremen.
Probable Starting XI: Wetklo - Heller, Svensson, Noveski, Fuchs - Polanski, Karhan, Soto - Holtby, Rasmussen, Schuerrle