Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel will welcome some close friends to the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK this Sunday when his former club 1. FSV Mainz 05 check in on him after five spectacular years spent together.
Read: Dortmund vs Mainz preview
Tuchel filled some rather capacious boots when he accepted Mainz's sporting director Christian Heidel's (Read: the man who made Tuchel and Klopp) invitation for his first major coaching role at Mainz in 2009, a year after Jürgen Klopp had left a superlative legacy. He succeeded in leading the club onto the next level – with two UEFA Europa League qualifications – before clearing his desk in 2014 for a studious sabbatical he deemed necessary, both for him and the club.
His challenge will be to outwit a man who was responsible for implanting a philosophy which continues to define the way Mainz play, even to this day. "There is certainly a signature that I am renowned for, and which we showed in Mainz, and that was a quick, attacking brand of football," Tuchel explained. "I stand for certain attributes: for an active style of play and for courageous defending, then getting the ball up front quickly."
'Continuing to push boundaries'
Just a point separates Mainz from the play-off to the Champions League group stage, an additional point would take them straight in among Europe's elite. There is no pressure or obligation for them to succeed, though. "We just go to Dortmund as normal, without the thought that we have to do something spectacular," Schmidt said. "We just want to confirm our results from recent weeks."
If they do that, Tuchel and Schmidt could be playing tactical chess again next season, and not only in the Bundesliga. Dortmund's qualification for the Champions League can be all but rubber-stamped with a win over Mainz, while the title would not be out of the question with a further three points either.
"We're just continuing to push our boundaries," said Tuchel after his side's 0-0 draw with FC Bayern München in Der Klassiker.
If Mainz can join them in Europe's elite club competition, it would be the continuation if not culmination of Tuchel's groundwork, furthered by Schmidt – the first to extend his hand to his friend and counterpart at the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK this Sunday.