Bell: “It will be a tough test“
FSV veteran speaks about the supposed weakness away from home and the upcoming home game against Borussia Dortmund
The war in Ukraine, which began a week ago, is a topic being spoken about up and down the country right now. That also applies to the Bundesliga’s players. It’s highly unlikely that a dressing room in Germany’s professional leagues hasn’t spoken about the situation there, also because a number of players will have got to know people currently affected by the war during their career. “It’s obviously on our minds just like everyone else. We are finding out about it all from the news, also about the decisions and sanctions in football. Ultimately though, we’re not that important in this situation. It’s really terrible and there’s so much to it,” said Stefan Bell to the press on Wednesday.
The 1. FSV Mainz 05 centre-back is well-known for being someone that is happy to give his opinion to the public on a number of different matters. However, regarding the war in Ukraine, the defensive veteran, like many other people, feels powerless and still has to get on with his day-to-day life and job. As a result, the 30-year-old would rather talk about things that he knows about, such as Mainz. The Zerofivers lost 3-1 last time out in the capital against Union, but have a chance to get back to winning ways this Sunday against Borussia Dortmund at the MEWA ARENA (15:30 CET).
For Bell, not too much should be read into the side’s supposed weakness away from home following that loss in Berlin (Mainz’s ninth defeat from 12 away games this season). According to Bell, if you talk about things like that too much, they can get stuck in the players’ heads. “That’s one reason why I don’t like speaking about it. It doesn’t help. I personally don’t believe that the team believes we are worse away from home. It’s more of a topic for people that aren’t at the club. We have won away games this season and it’s not like we’ve played to our best in every home game too, even though we’re on a great run there.”
Results haven’t reflected the performances
Bell feels that the difference between the results at home and on the road don't reflect the performances. “A number of teams in mid-table are all performing to a similar level. Players’ mental attitudes are important, as well as the togetherness of the team. We saw in the second half of last season how much of an impact these things can have. I don’t actually believe we played badly in Berlin. Even though we went behind early on, it was an even game with few chances and highlights. We conceded a goal too early in both halves,” stated Bell. The red card made it difficult for the Zerofivers to try and get back into the game against such a strong team at the back, who were always backed by vociferous supporters. “Their support always helps them. It impacts how they play – their style of football is based on their intensity and strength in the tackle. The atmosphere is always special there with terraces on three sides of the ground.”
VAR was once again in focus in Berlin. “A lot of offside decisions are being spoken about at the moment that aren’t clear. The other difficult issue that was often hard to judge has become a lot clearer this season because defenders are allowed much more natural body positions, which I think is a good thing,” stressed Bell. “We always revise the rules before the start of the season and that’s important. Sometimes I think it would be better to make the commentators do this too. They always give their opinions and spread misinformation from what feels like five years ago. It’s therefore no surprise that there are so many discussions.”
“…which I think is correct.”
Looking back at Mainz’s last three games, there have been contentious VAR decisions in all three. Bell believes that the mistakes in Freiburg shouldn’t have been made because it leads to more people doubting VAR. “The goal that we had chalked off against Leverkusen should have stood. As far as I know, the DFB also decided that this was a mistake as Moussa wasn’t interfering with play. Referee Dankert then applied this rule to our game in Berlin, which I think is correct.”
Borussia Dortmund will visit Mainz this Sunday. Bo Svensson will have to make some changes to his defence with both Dominik Kohr and Alexander Hack suspended, meaning Bell will have someone different next to him at the back. “We’ve probably already had around ten different combinations for our back-five this season and we’ve done really well considering. As a result, I believe that we’ll once again deal with the absentees,” remarked Bell. “Our aim is to provide the fans with another performance like we did against Leverkusen. We need to be brave, entertaining and attack. I think it will be a similar game. It’s a tough test, but we’re still confident.”
One big factor for the defender will be the return of fans in the stadium. “Having lots of fans cheering you on in your own stadium definitely makes a difference. It’s something we all kind of forgot about when we had to play behind closed doors. We forgot how special it is to be pushed on by the crowd,” explained the 30-year-old.
We’re really disciplined in my opinion.
When asked if the game would be like the 3-2 against Leverkusen, Bell responded: “I think our main strengths at home this season are our discipline and togetherness. It’s important that we stop them breaking if we’re high up the pitch. We’re normally really disciplined at that in my opinion.”