It's party time on Friday night in the Bundesliga as two of Germany's Carnival clubs, Mainz and Cologne, go head to head in a game that guarantees plenty of colour and excitement to kick off Matchday 11.
"The anticipation is huge," Mainz coach Bo Svensson said of the meeting of two teams who are both steeped in Carnival tradition and hungry for points. "We're playing against a good opponent at home under the lights - I don't think we'll see a boring game."
It's an encounter in which Svensson's team will be hoping for a first win at their MEWA Arena stadium this season. "Both teams will play with high intensity and a sporting toughness [and] both will play to win," Cologne boss Steffen Baumgart added.
It's a match that has sometimes been dubbed the Karnevalsderby. Mainz, Cologne and Fortuna Düsseldorf hail from three cities in the Rheinland that host the biggest of the festivities during Karneval season, which all starts at 11:11 a.m. on November 11 each year and culminates with the Rosenmontag celebrations in February. It is then that hundreds of thousands of revellers take to the streets dressed up in costumes to party.
The largest of the celebrations takes place in Cologne, where around one million people come from near and far to take part. During this time, shouts of Kölle Alaaf - or Here's to Cologne - can be heard everywhere. In Mainz, meanwhile, the traditional cry of "Helau!" gets carnival season underway there.
The cities' football clubs generally tend to release special edition kits to coincide with the culmination of carnival celebrations and - down through the years - each side has played their corresponding Bundesliga fixtures dressed in these limited edition jerseys. Indeed, it's not just the locals who are allowed to dress up as they prepare to party. Players plying their trade for the clubs connected to Karneval also get kitted out in colourful costumes for special photo shoots and training sessions.
It was during a carnival season some 70 years ago that Cologne were presented with a billy goat called Hennes by a circus ringmaster. To this day, the team are known as Die Geißböcke, or The Billy Goats, and the animal features on the club crest. The subsequent successors to Hennes have regularly been presented at Cologne's stadium before games.
With Mainz hosting Cologne just three weeks before the start of Carnival, both teams have a fantastic opportunity to set the atmosphere when they go head to head on Friday night. The hosts are top of the away standings in this season's Bundesliga but would dearly love that first home win of this campaign to come against their Rheinland rivals. "I expect a lot of emotions and high intensity on the pitch," Mainz coach Svensson said.
Cologne have lost just one of the teams' five previous Bundesliga meetings. Should the visitors win, they would level up the the overall record between the sides in Germany's top flight at eight victories each. "We are well prepared for the game against Mainz - the intensity has been ramped up this week," Baumgart said.
Mainz - in eleventh - have won all four of their Bundesliga games to date on the road and followed last weekend's win against Werder Bremen with a midweek DFB Cup victory at fourth-tier Lübeck. "We've won twice this week and are now playing against [another] good opponent," Svensson said. "They've been very stable since [their coach] has been there. It's clear how they want to play [and] they're successful with their style. They're a difficult opponent for any team that faces them," the Mainz coach concluded.
Prepare for fireworks, then, when the Carnival Clubs meet face to face under the Friday night lights. As always, you can follow the ins and outs of what promises to be an enthralling encounter on bundesliga.com and across our social networks from 20:30 CET.
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