Mainz looking to take momentum into clash with Schalke
Sandro Schwarz is preparing his team for an intense and passionate away match against Schalke 04 – David Wagner’s impact is clearly visible
A last-minute win at home over Hertha BSC last weekend saw 1. FSV Mainz 05 end their losing run. “Of course, a positive result like that gives us the feeling that we can overcome difficult moments as a team. Now, however, we have a new task ahead of us, a new challenge that we’re happy to take on,” Sandro Schwarz said during a pre-match press conference ahead of the away match auf Schalke on Friday night (kick-off: 20:30 CEST).
The match offers up another scintillating encounter – not least because of Schalke head coach David Wagner’s personal history with Mainz. Wagner, who took over the reins at Schalke this season, made 94 second division appearances for the Zerofivers between 1991 and 1995. During that time, the striker scored 18 goals and developed a friendship with Mainz legend Jürgen Klopp which continues to this day. Back then, Schwarz was only able to observe Wagner as a spectator in the stands at the Bruchweg. The current head coach of the Zerofivers only made his debut for the club a few years later. But, the two know each other and have met often, with Schwarz admitting that he is pleased with how Wagner’s debut season auf Schalke has gone so far.
Pressing, sprints and a strong performance
“It’s true that Schalke have delivered strong performances right from the start with their season opener in Mönchengladbach,” said Schwarz. “They play a very intense, passionate style of football – they push forward with a lot of momentum, are quick to switch over and have a strong presence up front and in the box. You can clearly see David’s work in the manner in which they play. We need to prepare ourselves for that.”
The Zerofivers have been preparing for what to expect on Friday night since their first training session of the week. Schwarz’s plan is to play a similar intense pressing game, and be ready to enter into challenges. “If we head into the match with the sole aim of outplaying Schalke, then it will be difficult, because that’s exactly what they want, is for us to try to play through certain spaces. That’s how they win the ball back,” the 40-year-old explained. “We need to bring certain basics into our game and be willing to follow through and be assertive on the pitch, both on offense and on defense.” Schwarz would like to see his team “be courageous, sprint into the spaces to cut off passes and to defend well while also being clinical in front of goal.”
The win against Berlin was an important cornerstone for the team. “However, as of Tuesday, we were fully focused on the task ahead of us. We want to deliver a top performance on the weekend. Based on my observations from training this past week, the lads have been communicating well, coaching each other, helping one another out and have brought plenty of emotion and a sense of preparedness. That’s what we need to see during the match,” said Schwarz. According to the head coach, he did not get a feeling of relief from the players. “You could maybe say that the overall mood is a bit better within the team. However, it wasn’t the case that the team were acting as if they had just lost three Bundesliga matches in a row. They were always ready to persist,” said the head coach.
No word yet on who will feature in goal
One thing remains unclear: just who will line up in goal for the Zerofivers on Friday night. Starting goalkeeper Florian Müller returned to training on Wednesday after recovering from a hand injury. Meanwhile, Robin Zentner’s strong showing against Berlin helped secure the win for the Zerofivers. “We’re aware of the performance that Robin delivered last weekend, but on the other hand, we also know what Müller has shown us he can do already. We’ll allow our impressions from training this week to sink in, and will have another meeting with the goalkeepers before we make our decision,” said Schwarz. Also doubtful is whether or not match-winner Jeremiah St. Juste will feature on Friday. The defender took a hit on the ankle during training and will have to wait and see if he will be able to take part in the final session ahead of the match.