Shinji Okazaki, Ja-Cheol Koo and Co. currently trail VfL Wolfsburg, who occupy the final UEFA Europa League spot, by three points, and with the Wolves and fifth-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen both playing at home on Matchday 30, the Karnivalverein know they have to win to stay in touch with their fellow European hopefuls.
‘A positive response’
After losing just one of their first eight Rückrunde matches, Mainz have tailed off in recent weeks, losing three of their last four league encounters. Tuchel says his first priority is to get back to winning ways against Bremen, rather than worry about results elsewhere. “It’s all about doing everything in our power to win the next match,” said the coach. “We’re just focusing on things we can control. It’s about us returning to form, not what the teams around us are doing.”
Tuchel’s team suffered a 2-0 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend, but their coach says his players have showed a positive response to that defeat in training this week. “I sensed they were disappointed with both the performance and the result,” said the 40-year-old. “I was pleased about that, because I was disappointed myself after the Frankfurt game. The best way to get over a defeat is to give your all in training, like we have been doing of late.”
Müller ruled out
South Korean international Joo-Ho Park will miss Saturday’s clash after undergoing surgery on a foot infection at the beginning of the week, while Nicolai Müller is also set to go under the knife this coming Monday. The 26-year-old was diagnosed with a meniscus tear in his right knee on Wednesday and could now miss the rest of the season. Defender Stefan Bell is suspended, while Julian Baumgartlinger and Dani Schahin remain short of match fitness following injury.
Argentina striker Franco Di Santo, who scored Bremen’s opener in the Grün-Weißen’s 1-1 draw with FC Schalke 04 on Matchday 29, is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season against the Royal Blues. Top scorer Nils Petersen is set to take Di Santo’s place in attack, while Felix Kroos, younger brother of Toni, remains sidelined with a knee injury.
‘Mainz can beat anyone’
Four points from the last two league matches have given Bremen some breathing space over their direct rivals at the bottom of the Bundesliga. Moreover, the Weser-Stadion club are unbeaten in their last six visits to the Coface Arena, but Petersen is taking nothing for granted ahead of the trip to Rhineland-Palatinate despite Mainz’s poor form.
“Mainz have had a fantastic season,” said the former FC Bayern München striker. “It’s only natural that the pressure on the team increases if everyone’s expecting you to qualify for Europe, but Mainz are a dangerous team that can beat anyone. They showed that in their recent defeat to Bayern – it took two late goals to beat them. It won’t be an easy task for us.”
Mainz: Karius - Pospech, Bungert, Noveski, Junior Diaz - Geis, Moritz - Malli, Koo, Choupo-Moting - Okazaki
Bremen: Wolf - Fritz, Prödl, Caldirola, Garcia - Bargfrede - Junuzovic, Makiadi - Hunt - Petersen, Elia