“We can’t allow ourselves to be passive”
Sandro Schwarz has faith that his side will put forth a top-notch effort against RB Leipzig on Friday night–Rangnick not counting out the possibility of taking home the title
Their last two home games left Mainz with a lot to celebrate. A 5-0 win over Freiburg, as well as a 3-1 win against Düsseldorf were the final steps towards staying up. Now, the team have the chance to experience another success at home, as they host third-place RB Leipzig on Friday night (20:30 CEST). According to Schwarz, Leipzig are currently the most consistent team in the Bundesliga. “Regardless, we still believe that we can put forth a strong performance at home in front of our fans. We’re looking forward to this game. It’s going to be tough, but we still want to play our game,” Schwarz said during a press conference ahead of the match.
Despite a defeat to Hannover last matchday, the Zerofivers haven’t experienced a drop in effort. In spite of a 1-0 loss, the team put on a strong performance a week after securing their place in the Bundesliga for next season. RB Leipzig have also accomplished one of their goals this season, and will take part in the Champions League next season. “I think they will continue to attack. In my opinion, Leipzig and Ralf Rangnick may even have their sights on potentially finishing in second,” Schwarz said. Rangnick has higher expectations for his side, and even spoke of winning the league. “Right now, it’s unlikely, but not completely impossible,” Rangnick said. “The season is not over yet and we still want to pick up nine points.” Leipzig are currently seven points out of the top of the table.
Mainz not changing their goal
But, Mainz still have their own ambitions. “Achieving our goal became a bit more difficult after the loss against Hannover, but we’re not changing our approach. We want to move to tenth in the table over the three games that remain. Obviously, that’s very ambitious,” said Schwarz. “We need to give our all against Leipzig on Friday.” No need to bring up the games that remain against Hoffenheim and Frankfurt just yet. “It’s outstanding what Leipzig have done lately. They have self-confidence, they are individually strong, they have everything. On top of that, they are fast across all positions and can push deep.” An intense game awaits the Zerofivers. Mainz will have to be active against the ball. “We can’t allow ourselves to be passive against Leipzig. We will have to keep our shape and close off any gaps in order to prevent passes from coming into the box. We need to avoid making mistakes during the build-up phase. And, when we have the ball, we need to have confidence and play it forward.”
All this has featured in the team’s training sessions ahead of the game. “I already said this last week, that you can see the joy we have in playing. We play with high intensity, and purpose, especially in scrimmages during training,” Schwarz said.
Boëtius and Donati doubtful to feature
Matchday 32 last season also saw Mainz face off against Leipzig, with the Zeorfivers cruising to a 3-0 victory. “I wouldn’t mind if this week’s game was just as emotional as last year’s,” said Schwarz, who hesitated to compare the two games. Mainz are a different team since then, and even Leipzig have changed the way they play, with a new coach.
Schwarz will likely not be able to call upon Giulio Donati and Jean-Paul Boëtius, who missed out on training due to muscular issues. “I have more hope that Boëtius will play rather than Donati,” said Schwarz. The right-back didn’t take part in training this week. Should Donati not play, he will be replaced by Daniel Brosinski “if we play with four at the back,” said Schwarz. If Boëtius is not match-fit, then Ridle Baku or Danny Latza are able to take his place, depending on whether Schwarz keeps a formation with a diamond.