1. FSV Mainz 05 vs Saint-Etienne Preview: Group C opener offers escape from poor league starts
(Photo: VAVEL)

1. FSV Mainz 05 vs Saint-Etienne Preview: Group C opener offers escape from poor league starts

Both teams have endured less than impressive starts in the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 respectively - but will this Europa League encounter afford them a fresh start?

Jack McGraghan

The 2016/17 edition of the UEFA Europa League will finally be upon us tomorrow evening, and both Mainz and Saint-Etienne will be hoping that they can get back to winning ways after enduring underwhelming starts in their respective leagues.

Underwhelming starts in the league

The visitors have just one win from four in Ligue 1 so far, which came on the opening day in the form of a 2-1 victory over MontpellierLes Verts have drawn their last three matches in all competitions, and their latest tie against Paris Saint Germain would have ended in a loss had substitute Robert Beric not found the net in the 91st minute of the game.

Mainz are currently winless from their opening two games in the Bundesliga, losing 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park on the opening day before throwing away a 4-1 lead to draw 4-4 at home to Hoffenheim last Sunday. Manager Martin Schmidt will be keen to set his side right defensively after they collapsed and threw away a three goal lead at the weekend, although with the injury problems that his side have he might not have much choice when it comes to selecting his starting 11.

The two sides have only met once previously, in a friendly prior to the start of the 2015/16 season. That game finished 1-1 in France, with Christian Clemens opening the scoring for Die Nullfunfer before Dylan Saint-Louis levelled in the 75th minute. Of course tomorrow's Europa League tie will be a different game entirely, with both sides hoping to get their continental campaigns off to the best possible start.

Mainz fans will hope their players can put the weekend's display behind them. (Photo: tz.de)
Mainz fans will hope their players can put the weekend's display behind them. (Photo: tz.de)

Previous Europa League campaigns held little success for both teams

The visitors took part in last season's edition of the Europa League, finishing second in Group G and making it to the round of 32 stage before being knocked out by FC Basel on away goals after the sides drew 4-4 on aggregate. The Ligue 1 outfit also took part in the 2013/14 and 2014/15 Europa League competitions, although those two campaigns were slightly less successful as they reached the play-offs and group stage respectively.

Mainz last took part in the competition in the 2011/12 season, and it was a campaign that most fans will have erased from their memories. The Germans were unceremoniously dumped out in the third qualifying round by Romanian minnows CS Gaz Metan Mediaș, losing 4-3 on penalties after both legs ended 1-1.

The home side have a rather lengthy injury list to deal with, with Emil Berggreen, Gianluca Curci, Danny Latza, Jairo Sampeiro, Devante Parker, Niki Zimling and the newly signed Andre Ramalho all unavailable for tomorrow's game. The away side are faring much better than their opponents on the injury front, with only defensive midfielder Bryan Dabo unavailable for selection, leaving manager Christophe Galtier with almost a full squad to choose from.

Predicted line-ups

Mainz (4-1-4-1): Lossl; Donati, Bell, Balogun, Bussmann; Gbamin; Oztunali, Malli, Frei, De Blasis; Cordoba

Saint-Etienne (4-3-3): Ruffier; Pogba, Perrin, Theophile-Catherine, M'Bengue; Lemoine, Selnaes, Veretout; Hamouma, Beric, Tannane