Borussia Mönchengladbach go into the final game of a tremendous first half of the 2011/12 Bundesliga season knowing a win could see them spend the winter break in second spot. Their guests tomorrow afternoon, Mainz, are nearer to the wrong end of the table, and could end the weekend in or just above the relegation zone if they lose here and the teams below them pick up points. The sides’ respective positions are in marked contrasts to where they finished in the 2010/11 season, with Mönchengladbach staying up by the skin of their teeth after beating Bochum in the relegation play-off, and Mainz leading the league and spending most of the seasons in the Champions League spots before being edged out at the death and into a still-very-respectable Europa League berth. Continue reading
Kaiserslautern bettered their 2011/12 goals for tally by 150 per cent as they won their first game of the season against Mainz in the Rheinland-Pfalz derby. Mainz can’t stop conceding goals at the moment, and despite some positive and slice attacking play, couldn’t score enough goals to render their weaknesses at the back irrelevant. Kaiserslautern, though, played with a real energy and determination throughout, and hadn’t looked this sharp tactically all season. The result lifts Marco Kurz’s side out of the relegation zone (meaning that the ‘-burg’ teams, Frei-, Augs- and Ham- now occupy those places), and two positions behind 13th-placed Mainz.
Mainz, set up in a relatively flat-looking 4-4-2, instantly looked to get the ball down the channels, from where they could cross for their two box-bobbing strikers. As per usual, they pressed high and in numbers when out of possession, and even mixed things up with how they used the ball on the wings. For example, in the third minute, Zoltán Stieber halted his charge down the chalk, drew the Kaiserslautern midfield across and onto him, before slipping the ball in to Elkin Soto, who’d nipped into the gap left behind the hosts’ midfield and very deep defence.
Nevertheless, the visitors didn’t have it all their own way early on, as when Kaiserslautern got on the ball, they didn’t mess about, and either passed or ran it into or towards the final-third as hurriedly as possible. Continue reading
They might not yet have even played their first Bundesliga game of the 2011/12 season, but Mainz have already played in two cup competitions. Although coach Thomas Tuchel’s side squeezed past SV Niederauerbach in the DFB-Pokal last weekend, they suffered an early Europa League exit at the hands of Romanian side Gaz Metan on Thursday, however. But, Tuchel has called on his heartbroken players to put aside the disappointment of that elimination as they prepare to kick off their league campaign against Bayer Leverkusen, a side they spent a large chunk of last season battling for Champions League qualification with. The young miracle worker has told his players that defeats are just a part of football that they have to learn to accept, and that they couldn’t have wished to meet a better opponent at this moment in time than Bayer. Given that this will be the first ever Bundesliga game staged at Mainz’s new Coface Arena stadium, there’s no danger that the home fans will be suffering an emotional hangover, and Bayer Leverkusen and the Mainz representatives on the pitch themselves can expect a wall of noise. Continue reading