Bremen, who have struggled for consistency under Robin Dutt this season, currently lie in eleventh place in the table – two places behind Mainz, who will be looking to pick up where they left off before the international break when they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 1-0 in the Rhine-Main derby.
Intriguingly, Bremen have not lost any of their last 20 home games they've played on a Sunday. While Dutt is confident of continuing that positive trend on Matchday 13, he is expecting a tough battle against die Nullfünfer. "I’m sure it’ll be a very intense game played at a high tempo with lots of tackles," said the 48-year-old. "Mainz are always an uncomfortable opposition, no matter where they are in the table – neither team will be giving anything away on Sunday."
Dutt also had kind words for his opposite number: "I’ve always had interesting battles with Thomas Tuchel during my coaching career, it’s always a lot of fun," he said. "You always need a good game plan and must be prepared for the odd surprise." Aaron Hunt was just as complimentary about Sunday’s visitors to the Weserstadion: "Mainz have established themselves in the Bundesliga over the last four years. It’s going to be a tight game."
Bremen duo missing
Bremen will have to do without the services of Zlatko Junuzovic and Sebastian Prödl for the match. Junuzovic has been diagnosed with a hairline fracture of the foot and is likely to be out until the New Year, while Prödl is suffering from a thigh injury. On a positive note for Dutt’s team, summer signing Franco Di Santo returns to the squad after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Tuchel, meanwhile, must decide who will partner captain Nikolce Noveski in defence, with Bo Svensson and Stefan Bell both returning from achilles and foot injuries respectively. "Bo has trained all week, but I’m not sure whether he can play 90 minutes. If Stefan doesn’t feel any pain in his foot, he will also be in contention," said Tuchel.
Tuchel relishing Bremen trip
Selection headaches notwithstanding, Tuchel – a childhood Bremen supporter – is relishing the trip to the Weserstadion. "Until the age of ten, I was convinced that Bremen only ever played under floodlights in the rain. That’s the impression I got from watching them on the TV," said the 40. "Their fans are very loyal and emotional, but also very fair. I think it’s remarkable how they stuck by their team last season, when things weren’t going so well."
Tuchel can sense his team are on a high following Maxim Choupo-Moting's late winner against Frankfurt and is convinced his team can build on that victory at the Coface Arena a fortnight ago. "I feel we’re more than capable of taking Bremen on and getting something from the game," he said. "That’s the feeling I’m getting from my team."
Bremen: Mielitz - Fritz, Lukimya, Caldirola, Schmitz - F. Kroos - Gebre Selassie, Makiadi - Hunt - di Santo, Elia
Mainz: Karius - Pospech, Svensson, Noveski, Park - Geis, Soto - Polter, Zimling, N. Müller - Okazaki