Mainz - It's Rhine-Main derby time as 1. FSV Mainz 05 play host to Eintracht Frankfurt and while the regional rivalry factor invariably adds a dash of spice to the proceedings, points towards a place in Europe are top of the agenda at the Coface Arena on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 15:30 CET).
Mainz seeking strong season finish
Mainz go into the game on the back of three straight defeats, and with just one win to their name in eleven outings - a run that has seen them slip from the top five down to mid-table and seriouly damaged their prospects of a return to the international stage in 2013/14. For coach Thomas Tuchel, now, "This game is the key to our season. We want the win, and our second derby success of the season."
The first came in the form of a 3-1 victory at the Commerzbank Arena back in late November, but Mainz's main problem in the interim has been an inability to finish opponents off in games where they have enjoyed the upper hand - too many draws, in a nutshell. That, and injuries to key players such as top goalgetter Adam Szalai, Jan Kirchhof and midfield dynamo Elkin Soto - the latter duo will be missing once more on Sunday - have combined to leave FSV in danger of ending the campaign with a whimper.
It's far from a foregone conclusion yet, though. Victory over Eintracht would take them back to within touching distance of several UEFA Europa League hopefuls - the visitors themselves among them. Hence Tuchel's observation that, "This game has a huge significance for the rest of the season." That applies equally, if not more so, to Frankfurt, who are not only battling for a possible place in the Europa League. A qualifying shot at the UEFA Champions League is still very much on the cards for the freshly-promoted club.
Main prize still in sight for Frankfurt
Little wonder, then, that Armin Veh is hardly expecting this to be a "lovey-dovey derby." On the contrary, the Eagles' head coach has warned, "We have to expect that Mainz will be very aggressive right from the off. And we'll need to match them in that." Having had more downs than ups themselves of late, Eintracht go into this one bolstered by a potentially pivotal single-goal success against Schalke 04 last time out, a win that took them to within a point of the fourth-place Royal Blues.
Alongside keeper Kevin Trapp - whose absence due to a hand fracture has been well covered thus far by evergreen fans' favourite Oka Nikolov - Veh will be without suspended centre half Carlos Zambrano and injured skipper Pirmin Schwegler on Sunday. On the up side, full back Sebastian Jung is good to go again, as, most likely, is top scorer Alexander Meier.
Mainz: Wetklo - Pospech, Svensson, Noveski, Junior Diaz - Baumgartlinger - Zimling, Malli - Ivanschitz - N. Müller, Szalai
Frankfurt: Nikolov - S. Jung, Russ, Anderson, Oczipka - Stendera, Rode - Aigner, Meier, Inui - Matmour