Two-part endurance test
Zerofivers to face FC Metz in Molsheim: Strikers expected to show their quality
It’s the last test of the summer pre-season for Mainz 05 – Sandro Schwarz will use the final friendly on Saturday in France to simulate a real away game one week before the competitive season kicks off against FC Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal. Travel, procedures, team briefs, meals and everything else will be handled as it would be in a competitive away fixture. The only difference will be that the Zerofivers will be contesting two matches in a day against FC Metz (both to be streamed live on YouTube).
The matches against the French side, who have just been promoted back to the first division and are the former club of Mainz centre-back Moussa Niakhaté, will kick off at 11:00 13:30 CEST in the “Sportive La” stadium in Molsheim, where the Ligue 1 returnees are holding their training camp. “Everyone has the opportunity to play 90 minutes,” says the Mainz head coach. There is a bit more energy left in the legs in comparison to the squad fielded a week ago for the OPEL CUP, which is necessary to refine a few more elements of the game, to solidify or to recognise the areas which Schwarz must fine-tune ahead of the cup fixture.
Kunde the super sub
It’s highly likely that the coach will send out two different teams. Ahead of training and the trip on Friday, Schwarz says, however, that he hasn’t planned in detail exactly how those two teams will look. Two equal teams are expected to be selected, who will both play through their respective 90 minutes. “We will pay attention to what works in each position and the group tactics.” The coach has one super sub, namely Kunde Malong, as the 21st outfield player. The international player only returned to training this week after taking part in the Africa Cup of Nations. It remains open as to which team the midfielder plays in and for how long.
The formations which are used in Molsheim will not hold any clues as to the starting XI against Kaiserslautern. Schwarz says that thoughts about the starting XI will of course be on his mind a week before the game. He couldn’t say, however, how many places are still up for grabs. Ronaël Pierre-Gabriel, who took part in a large part of Friday’s team training, the injured Jonathan Meier and Philipp Mwene, who is getting closer to returning to team training, will not be available to play in Molsheim. And of course, neither will forwards Dong-Won Ji and Jean-Philippe Mateta – two injured players whose absence takes a toll on the team. “On the one hand, of course it hurts, but on the other hand it’s an opportunity for the other players to shine. We have attacking players who have shown their quality and scored goals,” explains the Zerofivers coach.
The club will sign a new striker before the end of the transfer window according to head coach Sandro Schwarz, “because we need to secure more quality in this position.” Mateta, who scored 14 goals in the 2018/19 campaign, has been ruled out for at least three months with injury and there currently isn’t a similar player in the 05ers squad. “We don’t want to and aren’t able to replace him like for like. It is all about find the right player profile which fits in with our formation and style of play. Then the strikers need to be able to play together as a group and function well. It was clear that Mateta and Ji fitted in our system very well but we are continuing to work hard with the rest of the squad to give them the feeling we are in the situation to compensate and to win matches. It is a new challenge to for us to find potential solutions to this situation,” said Schwarz.
The Frenchman, who was Mainz’s top goalscorer last season, played a substantial role in the 05ers attack last season. “I would be forced into more thoughts and deliberations if we simply just played long balls up to Mateta and it depended just on the battle for the second ball or headers. Of course we lose a player who was able to turn his back on goal, as JP possesses a lot of quality.” Nevertheless, Schwarz’s side are in the position to play the ball in behind opposition defences. “We have to break away from his style on the ball and his 14 goals,” said an open Schwarz. “We need to have the quality in attack and take the next step of development elsewhere. However, we don’t need to make any fundamental changes.”