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
The German top-flight’s lowest scorers take on a side who have shipped nine goals in their last three games tomorrow teatime, as the 2011/12 Bundesliga’s sixth fixture sees Mainz travel to second-bottom Kaiserslautern. After a firesale of attackers over the summer, Kaiserslautern coach Marco Kurz is under pressure already after watching his side scrape two barely deserved draws and lose three league games, scoring a mere two goals in the process. The Red Devils have conceded eight goals at the other end; two less than 12th-placed Mainz, who’ve netted seven times so far in the league. However, the latest visitors to Kaiserslautern have conceded eight goals alone in two of their last three games, after losing 4-0 at home to Hoffenheim last weekend, and throwing away a 2-0 half time lead against Schalke to lose 4-2 in the fixture before a 1-1 draw with Hannover. Continue reading
Schalke stormed back from 2-0 down to deny Mainz the chance to go back to the top of the table. The home side stopped the visitors from playing in the first half with their intense pressing and energetic attacking, but Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick rang the changes at the interval and reaped the benefits; his Jefferson Farfán-inspired side eventually proving too strong and clinical for Mainz.
Mainz got things under way at their new Coface Arena, coach Thomas Tuchel starting with the same team that defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 on the opening day of the new Bundesliga season. They put Schalke’s deep 4-1-4-1 under pressure early on, forcing the visitors into fouls, back-passes, and hurried sideways delegation-balls whenever Schalke did get possession or territory. Rangnick’s game-plan seemed to hinge on his side getting the chance to counter-attack, as illustrated in the fourth minute when his four banks sat in their own half, only pressing the pass-assessor when they were primed to cross halfway.
In that particular instance, Lewis Holtby won the ball, dribbled upfield, before stalling so as to wait for the sprinting widemen – the only place for the visitors to build was in the home side’s half, especially when Mainz’s players were darting back more concerned about getting into position. Holtby slid the ball one way, before it was disguised via another pass to go out to the opposite flank. The eventual cross, from Jan Morávek, was a few inches too high, however. Continue reading
Round three of the new Bundesliga season pits together two of the sides who succeeded last year in qualifying for the 2011/12 Europa League. However, whereas Schalke began their continental campaign on Thursday, albeit by losing 2-0 away to HJK Helsinki in a first leg result described as a “disaster” by sporting director Horst Heldt, Mainz were eliminated at the first hurdle, suffering a penalty shootout exit after failing to break down Romanian minnows Gaz Metan two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, Thomas Tuchel’s side have made the better start to the new Bundesliga campaign, taking six points from a possible six, and making fans dream of emulating their seven-wins-from-seven-games start to 2010/11. Following up their 2-0 and 2-1 victories over Bayer Leverkusen and Freiburg respectively with three points against Schalke will put them just under 50 percent of the way to achieving that goal, and the away side can expect a frenzied atmosphere at Mainz’s new Coface Arena as fans dream of eclipsing last season’s fifth-place finish. Continue reading
Sami Allagui bounced back from missing the crucial penalty in the midweek Europa League exit to Gaz Metan by scoring the opening goal as Mainz defeated Bayer Leverkusen in the first match of the new Bundesliga season. The home side, making their second official appearance in their new Coface Arena, played a superb pressing game off-ball, and a slick, passing, dribbling, gung-ho one on it. Leverkusen didn’t quite have a shocker, but, they did struggle to find a consistent rhythm and style, and also seemed unable to cope with the unrelenting pace of the game. After losing to Dynamo Dresden 4-3 in the cup last week, new coach Robin Dutt is already under pressure to prove that he is the man to take the perennial runners-up to the next level; and, to make matters worse, the defender he helped bring to the club, Ömer Toprak, steered into his own net in the dying stages to help seal Mainz’s deserved victory.
Mainz, as is their way, pressed high and hard from kick-off, but Bayer Leverkusen looked prepared and therefore remained assured on the ball, even if they did little with it in the opening few minutes. 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
The new 2. Bundesliga season continues this afternoon with one of the division’s former East German sides coming up against a club who, as recently as six years ago, reached the last 16 stage of the UEFA Cup. But you’re only as good as your last result, so the cliché goes, and if we apply that unwritten rule to league placings, then the team which represents the city of Aue (population 18,000) currently has the higher standing in German football. Whereas Aachen and their leaky defence finished in 10th place at the end of 2010/11, just as close to bottom side Arminia Bielefeld as they were to champions Hertha Berlin, today’s hosts finished in 5th spot. Nevertheless, Rico Schmitt’s side weren’t always the best side to watch, with few goals going in at either end. Peter Hyballa’s visitors, on the other hand, took a more liberal approach to defending, but perhaps as expected from a coach who joined Aachen from the BVB youth set-up, the side could be quite exciting and very positive in attack. Continue reading