Having won four of their opening five games for only the fourth time in their 35-year Bundesliga history, Leverkusen are determined to prove the 4-2 loss to Manchester United FC was just a minor blip against a Mainz side, who have themselves gone off the boil in recent weeks.
Tuchel: “It’s all about support”
After enjoying a blistering start to the current campaign, collecting three wins from three, Mainz have suffered back-to-back defeats ahead of their clash with a Leverkusen outfit intent on breaking into the Bundesliga’s top two. “Leverkusen have an incredible amount of quality, are confident in possession and have a good structure to their style of play,” explained head coach Thomas Tuchel.
The Nullfünfer were short of such quality in their 1-0 loss to FC Schalke 04 last weekend as the likes of Elkin Soto and Shinji Okazaki fell short of making the desired impact, while the league’s joint-top scorer Nicolai Müller failed to find the net for the first time this season. “It’s all about the support,” said Tuchel, who will be without Julian Baumgartlinger this weekend. “With Christoph Moritz and Johannes Geis we’ve got excellent alternatives in Julian’s position.”
Fresh injury issues
The Austrian international joins Julian Koch, Niko Bungert and Shawn Parker on the sidelines, while the absence of Niki Zimling has proven a cause for concern for the Mainz head coach. “With Niki ruled out and Julian also unavailable, Elkin [Soto] becomes twice as important,” admitted Tuchel of the midfielder, who had the most shots on goal of any player against the Royal Blues. “It’s now up to him to find his form as fast as possible.”
Leverkusen are also contending with their fair share of absentees ahead of Saturday’s encounter. Head coach Sami Hyypiä will be without Gonzalo Castro as well as fellow midfielder Jens Hegeler. However, there was positive news in the form of Lars Bender’s return to fitness. The Werkself’s midfield motor came off the bench during the match in Manchester but is set for a start at the Coface Arena.
Hyypiä is determined for his charges to show a marked improvement, but knows it would be unwise to underestimate this weekend’s opponents. “Thomas Tuchel has been doing a great job for years,” said the former Finnish international. “Mainz play with a lot of speed and an incredible intensity. We’ve got to be prepared to deal with that.”
As well coming into the game nursing a defeat, Leverkusen also lost this fixture last season. Nevertheless, Hyypiä believes his side are ready to bounce back. “We weren’t confident enough and there wasn’t enough movement. We just made too many mistakes, which United benefited from,” conceded the 39-year-old. “We’re ready to play much better in Mainz than we did in Manchester.”
Mainz: H. Müller - Pospech, Svensson, Noveski, Park - Geis, Moritz - N. Müller, Choupo-Moting, Soto - Okazaki
Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Wollscheid, Toprak, Boenisch - L. Bender, Reinartz, Rolfes - Sam, Kießling, Son