Mainz took a huge step towards Europa League qualification after overcoming ten-man Borussia Mönchengladbach with a late goal from André Schürrle.
Round 30 began on Friday night with a game between two sides experiencing seasons beyond their wildest dreams. Hosts Mainz came into this match against Mönchengladbach in 5th spot – looking well set to secure a spot in next season’s Europa League, despite briefly flirting with qualification for the Champions League up until a few weeks ago. However, their last win in the league was nearly a month and a half ago. Their visitors, on the other hand, had ambitions of at least finishing in mid-table at the start of the season, but with five games to go, they came into this game bottom of the table. Nevertheless, they thrashed Köln 5-1 last week, giving their survival hopes a shot in the arm (Mainz lost 2-0 to Hannover, perhaps finally ending any lingering Champions League hopes). Thomas Tuchel had several key players missing for this game, including Bo Svensson, Nikolce Noveski, Jan Šimák, Zsolt Lőw, Ádám Szalai, and Heinz Müller. Visiting coach Lucien Favre was blessed in comparison – the only notable absentees being Paul Stalteri and Igor de Camargo. Intriguingly, both coaches seemed to ditch the status quo in naming their line-up’s, picking more offensive formations than was expected. Continue reading →
Bayer Leverkusen gave themselves a four-point cushion in the Champions League spots after capitalising on a Mainz mistake to win a game that looked certain to end goalless.
Both sides were in decent runs of form coming into this game, and won emphatically in the last round of fixtures: Mainz 4-2 at Hamburg, Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 at home to lowly Wolfsburg. The table made happy reading for fans of either side, with the hosts sat in fifth spot, knowing a win would see them leapfrog Bayern into fourth, and the visitors sat two points clear in second, knowing a win would take them to within nine points of league leaders Dortmund. Thomas Tuchel, linked this week with a move to Leverkusen should Jupp Heynckes depart for Bayern Munich, made three changes to his side, bringing in goalkeeper Christian Wetklo, and new full-backs. He retained the diamond midfield and wide forwards system that worked superbly in the second half against Hamburg last weekend. As for Bayer, who lost 3-2 at home to Villareal in the Europa League midweek, there was finally room for Michael Ballack in the starting XI. Arturo Vidal also returned, and with Ballack and Lars Bender behind him, started in a more advanced midfield role behind Stefan Kieβling. Against Hannover (2-0) & Nuremberg (1-0) on matchdays 20 & 21, Ballack & Rolfes were used behind Vidal to superb effect, but this was the first time this particular trio had started a game together. The talismanic Rolfes (and his Mainz counterpart Lewis Holtby) was on the bench. Continue reading →