Pressure as a privilege
Against Hertha BSC, the Zerofivers want to rid themselves of any signs of their recent poor form and pick up points with a focused performance
1. FSV Mainz 05 have a full squad at their disposal once again. All the players who were off on international duty have returned healthy. Despite picking up a hit to the thigh, Adam Szalai should be able to feature on Saturday, as the Zerofivers head into their second home match of the season. The game against Hertha BSC offers the opportunity to take home the first three points of the season. “We are not wasting any time thinking about what could happen,” said Sandro Schwarz. “We need to keep a clear head, draw upon our own strength during difficult moments and bring a high-energy performance to the pitch, along with the fans.”
Two days ahead of kick-off, the Zerofivers’ head coach said that the team have taken advantage of the international break in order to work on the issues that have popped up during the start to the season. They’ve worked their way through their list of shortcomings, according to the coach. After the loss to Bayern, Schwarz said that he wanted to put the team under pressure during training in order to test the resilience of his squad in certain situations. “That ended up working well,” said the 40-year-old. “We created many stressful situations and really upped the intensity to make the team suffer. The lads were very receptive to it and responded well. It came down to not over-thinking it, but instead just doing it. During training is always a good time to simulate those in-game situations and to practice them. Now, we need to bring what we’ve practiced onto the pitch on Saturday at 15:30 CEST.”
Two days to prepare
In any case, the team have used their time wisely. Training at the Bruchweg took place in small groups, this time featuring players who have otherwise been away with their respective national teams, such as Aarón Martín or Kunde Malong. It was important for these two to spend the past two weeks with the club. “They joined in on training late and their pre-season was a bit disrupted. Now, they are able to focus fully on working hard and furthering their endurance without having to worry about the workload,” said the Zerofiver head coach. At the same time, the Zerofivers who were off on international duty have returned having picked up more game time experience.
“We now have two days to prepare ourselves fully for Hertha together with the whole team,” said the head coach. Schwarz is looking to make his plan for Saturday’s match clear to his players through various discussions and meetings. “We will paint a picture of what being dynamic and having energy has always meant to Mainz 05,” said Schwarz. What it will come down to on the weekend is being better at putting these things into action than the capital city club.
Hertha BSC currently find themselves in a similar situation. Head coach Ante Covic’s side may have started by taking a point off Bayern, but have not added any more since. “They’re dealing with some of the same issues as us, based on what you could read in the papers. As a result, we’re expecting a tough battle on the weekend,” said Schwarz. Mainz will have to fight to find their way into the match, as well as bringing in the quality they have on hand. “Hertha BSC are also not happy with their current situation. They will likely try to find their way into the match by remaining solid on defense,” Schwarz said.
Pressure as a privilege
The pressure is high on both sides. Both teams have had a difficult start to the season and are in need of points. Schwarz and his team have worked on not allowing themselves to be affected by negative scenarios, but to instead stay in the moment and to get better. “We have to see being put under pressure as a privilege. If you don’t feel the pressure, then you know that not many people are concerned with what you're doing,” said the head coach. “Together with the fans, we want to deliver a performance that allows those in the stands to recognise: ‘Okay, this is a team that is moving forward.’ The worst possible thing to do is convince yourself beforehand that you don’t have a chance. Others have done that before, and it’s never ended well.”
According to Schwarz, the task at hand is to head into the match with confidence, self-belief and courage. At the same time, the team need to be prepared for all sorts of situations and to not fall apart when things don’t go as planned. The key is to remain present and fully focused during the entirety of the match in order to take home the first points of the season.