The Mainz striker sits joint-top of the scorers' chart ahead of Matchday 16's round of fixtures having, alongside the likes of Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski and FC Bayern Munich's Mario Mandzukic, found the net nine times in 15 Bundesliga outings.
"Made the difference"
"Szalai has done a lot of work and has made the difference," said Hannover 96 coach Mirko Slomka after watching on in sheer admiration as the former Real Madrid reservist rose above his marker to nod home Eugen Polanski's pinpoint cross and seal all three points for ten-man Mainz against Slomka's men last weekend.
FSV are far from being a one-man band, though. Veteran centre back Nikolce Noveski provides the stabilising effect that affords Austrian duo Andreas Ivanschitz and Julian Baumgartlinger the opportunity to express themselves further up the pitch - the latter having chipped in with four assists so far this season.
"As a competitive athlete you're never really happy. You can always score more goals," said playmaker Ivanschitz who, with four Bundesliga goals of his own this term, believes he and Mainz could be doing even more in front of goal. Be that as it may, head coach Thomas Tuchel's summer squad rejig seems to be paying divends, with Mainz now in hot pursuit of the European places.
Sunday's hosts Gladbach have meanwhile been busy themselves on the wider stage, as one of four Bundesliga clubs to have freshly booked their place in the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League. Lucien Favre's charges cruised to victory over Fenerbahce in Istanbul on Thursday - although their flight back to the home comforts of Borussia Park was delayed by a flurry of snow.
"I love the weather," beamed the Foals' Norwegian midfielder Havard Nordtveit who, like Marc-André ter Stegen, Filip Daems, Tony Jantschke, Martin Stranzl, Thorben Marx, Juan Arango, Lukas Rupp, Igor de Camargo and Patrick Herrmann was given the night off in Istanbul, with Gladbach already assured of a place in the next round of the Europa League.
That leaves Borussia in a position to field an almost entirely fresh team for the visit of Mainz, who were also treated to some additional rest and relaxation this past week. "Three extremely physical games. That takes its toll on mind and body alike," said Tuchel, whose side are noted for being one of the hardest-running outfits the high-tempo Bundesliga has to offer.
Borussia Mönchengladbach: ter Stegen - Jantschke, Stranzl, Alvaro Dominguez, Wendt - Nordtveit, Marx - Rupp, Arango - Herrmann, de Camargo
1. FSV Mainz 05: H. Müller - Pospech, Svensson, Noveski, Zabavnik - Baumgartlinger - Polanski, Soto - Ivanschitz - Szalai, S. Parker