Delivering a strong performance
The Zerofivers are looking to deliver a performance on Saturday that “will please both the club and the fans” – Schwarz was on the pitch as a player during Mainz’s last home win against Union Berlin
The head coach made it clear this week that his team would make amends for last weekend’s 8-0 loss to Leipzig at home on the pitch against Union Berlin this Saturday (15:30 CET). In a pre-match press conference, both Sandro Schwarz and Rouven Schröder said that Mainz don’t need to waste time with words, but instead need to deliver a performance on Saturday that “will please both the club and the fans.”
“No one on the team is neglecting to take responsibility. We all have a responsibility to the club,” said Schröder. “We’ve analysed the match against Leipzig and have made clear what our expectations are. The team are well aware of what happened last weekend.” According to Schröder, the team is looking to turn things around “and set things right on the pitch.” According to the sporting director, the team took the time to reflect on the loss last time out. “They know that the way they played last time is not the kind of football that we envision playing at Mainz 05. We have faith in our squad and are positive that we have the right mindset and desire to deliver a strong performance in front of the fans in the OPEL ARENA on Saturday.”
Ready to recover
Schwarz and his side are locked in on the task at hand, after levelling harsh criticism at themselves in the aftermath of the 8-0 defeat to Leipzig. The head coach is expecting his side to “display a desire to win. We can see the chance we have to do so,” said Schwarz, who added that the keys to victory against Union lie in his players believing in one another. His side are no strangers to tough times, having been in a similar situation several times before. “As a team, we now all have a responsibility to rise to the challenge,” he said.
The task will not be an easy one, as newly promoted Union are known for being strong in defence. The Berliners have a reputation for winning challenges, being aggressive and creating chances for themselves. “We also need to be prepared to break up their attacks down the wings, and prevent them from sending in dangerous crosses,” said Schwarz. “Being able to identify a dangerous situation early on and react, instead of leaving it until the last minute.” At the same time, the Zerofivers will be looking to create their own chances on goal down the other end by being efficient with their finishing. Schwarz is expecting his team to step onto the pitch with the same mindset they displayed against Köln. During the 3-1 win over the Billy Goats, the Zerofivers were able to play their way out of several tricky situations. “A strong mentality, patience and passion,” are what the head coach is demanding from his players.
The darkest hour
This will be Schwarz’s first-ever meeting with Union Berlin as a head coach. As a player, the 41-year-old featured in each of Mainz’s previous six meetings with Union. Schwarz was also present for one of the darkest hours in club history, as the Zerofivers lost 3-1 on the final matchday of 2001/02, and missed out on promotion to the Bundesliga despite having 64 points to their name. “Do we really need to bring that up?” asked Schwarz, for whom the memory of that day is still fresh. “Five minutes ago I learned that Rouven was promoted that day.” The current Mainz sporting director benefitted from the Zerofivers’ misfortune that day and celebrated promotion to the Bundesliga with VfL Bochum (65 points) following an away win in Aachen.
The fact that the memories of that day still live on to this day, in another difficult time for the Zerofivers, could also be a good sign. “At the time, we used that experience to motivate ourselves,” said Schwarz. Three months later, the Zerofivers took their revenge on Union on the opening day of the 2003/04 season. Despite another dramatic loss to Braunschweig, the Zerofivers were able to win promotion to the top flight in their third attempt. The loss against Union remains the only one in Mainz’s head-to-head record against the Köpenick-based club. Schwarz and the Zerofivers won the most recent duel 2-1 against Union at the Bruchweg nearly 16 years ago in Bundesliga 2.