Borussia Mönchengladbach could rise as high as fourth in the standings with victory over seventh-placed Mainz at the weekend
Borussia Mönchengladbach could rise as high as fourth in the standings with victory over seventh-placed Mainz at the weekend

Passports at the ready for Gladbach and Mainz

Mönchengladbach - Borussia Mönchengladbach have the top four in their crosshairs as they prepare to tackle seventh-placed 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday (kick-off 13:30 GMT/ 15:30 CET).

'Everything's perfect'

The Foals effectively secured UEFA Europa League football for next season with victory over FC Schalke 04 last time out, but could go one better this week, with qualification for the UEFA Champions League still very much up for grabs.

"We want to put in a good performance and take all three points if possible," explained Gladbach head coach Lucien Favre. "Mainz are very awkward opponents. They can play several different systems and also mix it up mid-game, so we have to be prepared for that [...] We have no ill or injured players at the moment. Everything's perfect on that front."

Boasting a slender two-point advantage over their Rhine-Main visitors, victory for Gladbach would not only guarantee a sixth-placed finish as a minimum, it could even, depending on results elsewhere, propel them into the coveted Champions League play-off spot ahead of next weekend's potentially decisive finale against fellow top-four hopefuls VfL Wolfsburg.

Okazaki chasing history

Of course, as Favre pointed out at Thursday's pre-match press conference, the 05ers, themselves one win from tying up a place in the Europa League, will be no pushovers. Indeed, only champions FC Bayern München (37), runners-up Borussia Dortmund (33) and third-placed Schalke (30) have amassed more points than Thomas Tuchel's high fliers (26) since the winter break.

"We're going there to win!" affirmed man-of-the-moment , who needs just three more goals to usurp former 1. FC Köln, Hertha Berlin and SV Werder Bremen forward Yasuhiko Okudera as the Bundesliga's all-time leading Japanese marksman (26). "I've learnt how to play in Germany," he continued. "It can't have been all that bad, otherwise the coach wouldn't have brought me to Mainz in the first place."

Possible line-ups:

Gladbach: ter Stegen - Korb, Jantschke, Stranzl, Alvaro Dominguez - Kramer, Nordtveit - Herrmann, Arango - Raffael - M. Kruse

Mainz: Karius - Pospech, Bell, Noveski, Junior Diaz - Geis - Moritz, Soto - Malli - Okazaki, Choupo-Moting

Christopher Mayer-Lodge

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Take a look at Mainz striker Shinji Okazaki's top five goals on the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: