Pros 29.07.2022 — 17:52 Uhr

Going into the new season with a competitive spirit

The Zerofivers won’t be complacent when they take on Erzgebirge Are in the first round of the DFB-Pokal

Bo Svensson was unable to put an exact percentage on where his team are at in Friday’s press conference ahead of his side’s trip to Aue on Sunday (18:30 CEST). The head coach, however, is convinced that his players have made progress since the training camp in Grassau. “We are where I believed we would be at at this point in time. We are further along than at the end of the training camp and we are ready for the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Dane made it clear at the end of the camp, that the pre-season training is designed to make sure that his team are “100% prepared” when they go into the cup game. The Zerofivers have increased their focus, concentration and intensity this week as they look ahead to their first competitive match and this is something that hasn’t surprised the coaching staff: “The tension and the focus have gone up a notch, because we have a match waiting at the end of the week and there is something to play for again,” mentioned assistant coach Babak Keyhanfar earlier in the week. Svensson also echoed this sentiment and mentioned that the competitive spirit is palpable: “This is something all the players thrive on and that’s why they have made it this far. There needs to be something at stake and we definitely have that in the cup match in Aue on Sunday,” explained Svensson.

What’s at stake on Sunday is a place in the next round and a positive start to the season. “The cup has great significance. You have the chance to be successful in just a few games,” said Svensson. Giant killings and surprise results are commonplace in the first round and although the Zerofivers are coming up against a third division side, they will be approaching it like a Bundesliga game. “It would be naïve to think that he will be easy,” Svensson warned.

“One of the toughest first round opponents.”

The Mainz head coach is fully aware that a tough test awaits his side on Sunday and not only because of the pressure of the “favourites” tag. “It won’t be an easy task against Aue and they are one of the strongest teams we can face in this round. They were relegated from the second division and they have rebuilt their squad significantly. There are a lot of new players and the will want to fight for promotion,” said Svensson. Auer came away from their first game of the league season with a 1-1 draw against SC Freiburg II.

It was also announced on Friday that Silvan Widmer will wear the captain’s armband this season. “He always performs and has the wherewithal off the pitch to handle the role of captain. It’s important who wears the armband, but it’s even more important that we have players who can take on the responsibility,” explained Svensson.

Three new arrivals could feature

The two newcomers Danny Da Costa (“who we still need to be careful with”) and Anthony Caci (“who we are hopeful could be available for the start of the Bundesliga next week”) will both miss out on Sunday. The situation, however, is different for the other new signings. Aymen Barkok, who was able to take part in the friendly against Bilbao, is, according to Svensson, “on a good path.” The boss is also happy with the progress of Maxim Leitsch, who recently signed from VfL Bochum: “He is getting better and better. He is constantly learning. He asks a lot of questions and as each day passes, he is becoming more accustomed to our principles.” Angelo Fulgini is also making great strides: “He has got used to the training load and he is a very clever footballer. He understands what his tasks are on the pitch” said the boss. No matter who plays on Sunday, if Mainz aren’t fully focussed then they will struggle: “If we don’t hit our form on the day, then it will be difficult.”