Munich - Fifth-placed Mainz 05 travel to Werder Bremen on Sunday (kick-off 17:30 CET) with Thomas Tuchel's side aiming to extend their streak of five unbeaten competitive matches.
Szalai on seven goals
Having taken ten points from the last four games, the 05ers are one of the Bundesliga's in-form clubs, a remarkable turnaround considering their dismal start to the season, in which they lost three of the first five games.
Adam Szalai has been Mainz's pivotal figure so far, scoring seven of his team's 12 goals. The 24-year-old once again showed his eye for goal on Matchday 9, hitting a hat-trick in the 3-0 win over 1899 Hoffenheim. Yet Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf is not convinced Mainz are a one-man team: "They have a good squad. It would be too easy to just focus on a single player."
Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel also shifted the pre-match focus away from his star stiker, emphasising the team's solidity at the back. His view was that good defending has been key to success, a claim underlined by the fact that only Bayern Munich and Schalke 04 have conceded less than Mainz's ten goals. "It's very difficult to score against us," believes the 39-year-old. "We're industrious when we don't have possession and I'm very satisfied with the way the team defends."
Tuchel: "Outstanding offensive players"
Ominously for Schaaf's Werder side, Mainz have won on their last lost two outings in Bremen. Yet despite their being six places and three points ahead of the northerners in the table, Tuchel stopped short of calling his team favourites, emphasising the quality his charges will be up against. "Werder have outstanding offensive players. [Aaron] Hunt, [Kevin de] Bruyne and [Zlatko] Junuzovic are just three who are technically adept," says the Mainz boss.
Bremen have begun the season in rather a stop-start fashion and are yet to win two consecutive league encounters, inconsistency that has resulted in their worst start to a campaign in twelve years. What has remained constant, however, is the team's attacking threat, perhaps seen at its most fluent in their last home match, a 4-0 drubbing of Borussia Mönchengladbach. Schaaf was therefore retaining confidence in his side, adding clearly, "We are only looking at ourselves."
No Klasnic Reunion
The veteran tactician has an almost full squad to choose from, with home captain Clemens Fritz the only absentee due to an adductor injury. Mainz, meanwhile, have a number of potential starters unavailable in the form of defender Niko Bungert and midfielders Eugen Polanski and Marco Caligiuri. Attack is also a potential problem for the away side, where Tuchel will likely have to make do without Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting as well as Ivan Klasnic, who misses out against his former club.
Bremen: Mielitz - Gebre Selassie, Prödl, Sokratis, Schmitz - Junuzovic - Arnautovic, de Bruyne, Hunt, Elia - Petersen
Mainz:: Wetklo - Pospech, Svensson, Noveski, Junior Diaz - Kirchhoff - Baumgartlinger, Soto - Ivanschitz - Szalai, Rukavytsya