Mainz - There's probably no better example of the Bundesliga's eclectic, multicultural talent pool than Hannover 96's trip to 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Friday (kick-off 20:30 CET).
Upwards of ten different nationalities are expected to take to the field at the Coface Arena, where East and West have combined to particularly good effect this season, with the ninth-placed 05ers losing only three times on their own patch so far in 2013/14 thanks in no small part to the goals of and .
Between them, the Rhine-Hesse outfit's oriental-occidental connection have found the back of the net 17 times already this term, a number which stands up to the very best the Bundesliga has to offer in the goal-scoring stakes: Germany international Müller has eight Bundesliga strikes to his name, while Japanese pin-up Okazaki is one better off on nine.
Like Mainz, visitors Hannover boast their very own transcontinental concoction in the form of Latvian international and Senegalese forward . The duo have proved an instant hit since the former traded the Red Shorts for the Reds on a six-month loan deal during the winter break, notching two apiece in the club's first three games of the Rückrunde.
South Korean combo
From front to back, it is pretty clear that both sides are not afraid to delve into the unknown when it comes to acquiring new talent. Even more impressive, meanwhile, is their ability to assimilate their global recruits in the fast-paced world of the Bundesliga without the slightest hint of a wobble. Mainz' South Korean combo Joo-Ho Park and Ja-Cheol Koo attest to that.
"Our East Asians are fantastic," enthused head coach Thomas Tuchel after his newfound pairing opened their Bundesliga accounts for the Karnevalsvereinagainst SC Freiburg back on Matchday 19. “If they're all like that, I definitely need to get a job in charge of a national team somewhere over there." Try as they might, however, neither could spare Mainz their maiden defeat of the calendar year on the road at VfL Wolfsburg last weekend.
"The crucial things from our point of view were that we didn’t do enough in their box and that we didn’t create enough opportunities on the counter," explained Tuchel. "With the number of chances we did have, we really ought to have taken the lead [...] Obviously we'll try and do things better this time around, but it's going to be an extremely difficult game."
The form table confirms as much, with Hannover's 2-0 Matchday 20 loss at FC Schalke 04 representing their first under new head coach Tayfun Korkut, incidentally an old colleague of Tuchel's from their days together at Stuttgarter Kickers in the mid-nineties. The former Turkey international was nevertheless quick to point out that "Mainz are European candidates. We've got a big job on our hands."
Mainz: Karius - Pospech, Bell, Noveski, Park - Geis, Soto - N. Müller, Koo, Choupo-Moting - Okazaki
Hannover: Zieler - Rajtoral, Marcelo, Hoffmann, C. Schulz - Schmiedebach, Stindl - Huszti, Bittencourt - Rudnevs, M. Diouf