- Goal-hungry Chicharito has an appetite for Mainz.
- Hasenhüttl and Stöger set for trip down memory lane.
- Hamburg's Adler hoping to stop the rot at Bayern Munich.
Mainz coach Martin Schmidt cast in a Mexican telenovela, Ralph Hasenhüttl as Rocky's Ivan Drago and Borussia Dortmund's Mad Max wannabes are some of the highlights in this week's Bundesliga Matchday 22 statistical preview.
We could forgive 1. FSV Mainz 05 coach Martin Schmidt for murmuring, "Ayyy, otra vez no - not you again," like a troubled man from a Mexican telenovela this week. Mainz currently find themselves without a point or a goal in their last three away games – an unwanted first for the club. Facing a resurgent Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday is a tricky enough task for Schmidt & Co., but with their nemesis Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez back in the groove, the dance just got deadlier.
Watch: Highlights of Leverkusen's Matchday 21 win over Augsburg:
Since moving to the Bundesliga in 2015, Chicharito has taken to Mainz like a pit bull to a postman. No sooner had the El Tri striker signed for Die Werkself than he scored a maiden Bundesliga goal in a 1-0 win at home to the 05ers. The menacing Mexican's tally now stands at five strikes in three games against Leverkusen's opponents this Saturday, which includes a Matchday 5 hat-trick in his team's 3-2 win at the OPEL ARENA.
Indeed, after enduring a spell as dry as the Chihuahuan Desert – in which Chicharito failed to score in 17 games for club and country – it's suddenly monsoon season for the Mexican. With five goals in his last three matches, Hernandez has hit the net more times in 2017 than the entire Mainz team. Well might coach Schmidt shake his fist to the skies while cursing, "El Diablo!"
There will be a more cordial reunion at the Red Bull Arena this weekend when Peter Stöger's Cologne visit an RB Leipzig side overseen by Ralph Hasenhüttl. The two tacticians have a happy history together, dating back to their days as team-mates at FK Austria Wien. In the early 1990s, when a svelte Stöger sported a fetching moustache and pirate earring while Hasenhüttl cut a rugged figure akin to Rocky IV's Ivan Drago, the dynamic duo won three top-flight titles together, and several caps for Austria.
On Saturday, Leipzig - the Bundesliga's second-placed side - will be fighting to maintain a proud home record that includes just one loss this season. A former Cologne centre-forward, Hasenhüttl will also be quietly hoping his opposite number's away woes continue, with the Billy Goats, seventh in the standings, winning just one of their last five on the road.
As road warriors go, Borussia Dortmund have been more Morris Minor than Mad Max of late [P11 W3], but Thomas Tuchel's team have historically enjoyed their trips to Matchday 22 opponents SC Freiburg.
Freiburg's fine engine is purring these days – with just two losses in nine games meaning Christian Streich's men have collected only one point fewer than Saturday's visitors over that period. Fans at the Schwarzwald-Stadion have even celebrated as many home victories as Bayern Munich and Dortmund this season [seven]. However, Die Schwarzgelben have perennially punctured Freiburg hopes in the past, winning the teams' last 11 meetings. Just one more triumph would bring BVB a club record against a single opponent and Tuchel a 100th Bundesliga win as a coach.
And finally, it's not that we want to spoil the celebrations of Hamburger SV's superb shot stopper Rene Adler ahead of what will be a 250th Bundesliga appearance, but all we're saying is that any tribute might be held before attention turns to this weekend's round of top-flight games [HSV and Adler fans look away now].
Sure enough, the Red Shorts have shone in recent weeks, winning three in an unbeaten run of four games to rise above the relegation zone. But it's to the Allianz Arena to face Bayern Munich for Markus Gisdol's troops this week, and there they have lost on the last seven occasions with the hosts racking up a 37-3 aggregate score. Goalkeeper Adler has faced the Bavarian giants 15 times in the Bundesliga with Leverkusen and Hamburg, conceding 42 times in 15 winless games. Could this be the time that Adler and HSV arrest the slide?
More numbers next week!