Only goal-difference separates Nürnberg from bottom-of-the-table Eintracht Braunschweig after a winnless run that stretches back to Matchday 34 of last season, when der Club beat Werder Bremen 3-2 to secure a tenth-place finish in the league.
Japanese trio under spotlight
With the club now firmly entrenched in the Bundesliga relegation zone, the final day of last season must seem like a distant memory to Nürnberg fans, who are likely to be awaiting Friday's match with some trepidation. One player, however, who is particularly looking forward to the clash with Mainz is , and with good reason: Hasebe and Japanese team-mate will line-up against one of their international colleagues when der Karnevalverein come to town this weekend.
"My fellow countryman is at Mainz and he's been doing very well, as have the whole Mainz team," Hasebe told the official Nürnberg website ahead of the match. "It doesn't matter who plays for them, though. We have to win. Our results haven't been that good of late, but I think we're going in the right direction. Our fans always support us, even if we don't always get good results, and we have to start playing for them."
Verbeek: "Ginczek fully fit"
One player who may be playing from the start on Friday evening is striker , who came off the bench to score in Nürnberg's draw with VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 13. Ginczek had been out for six weeks with a broken toe, but coach Gertjan Verbeek revealed the 22-year-old is chomping at the bit for a return to the starting line-up. "Daniel told me he feels 100 per cent fit. If he says that, that's good for us," said the Dutchman, who has a near full squad at his disposal apart with Markus Feulner (flu) and Niklas Stark (groin) both missing out.
Goalkeeper Christian Wetklo is available following a three-match suspension, but Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel is likely to keep faith with Loris Karius for the trip to Franconia. Yunus Malli could come into the side in place of Colombian international Elkin Soto, who was shown a straight red card for deliberate handball against Borussia Dortmund last weekend, while Niki Zimling is likely to assume the holding role in midfield.
Though Hasebe is relishing the challenge of facing compatriot Okazaki, the summer signing from VfB Stuttgart is likely to pose a considerable threat to Nürnberg's defence: The 27-year-old is Mainz's joint second-highest goalscorer this season with five, just two behind top marksman Nicolai Müller.
Despite their hosts' precarious position in the league, Tuchel is wary of underestimating Verbeek's side and pointed to Kiyotake's delivery from set-pieces as a particular threat to his team. "We've spoken at length about their ability from dead-ball situations," said the 40-year-old. "Kiyotake whips them in with pinpoint accuracy. That's something we need to address if we want to get something from the game."
1. FC Nürnberg: R. Schäfer - Chandler, Nilsson, Pogatetz, Plattenhardt - Frantz - Mak, Hasebe, Kiyotake, Hlousek - Ginczek
1. FSV Mainz 05: Karius - Pospech, Bell, Noveski, Park - Geis, Zimling - Polter, Malli, N. Müller - Okazaki