Borussia Dortmund take on 1.FSV Mainz 05 in the final fixture of matchday 18 as Thomas Tuchel hopes to cement his side in the Champions League places with another three points to add to their last away win in the league recently against Werder Bremen.
Dortmund are level with Hertha Berlin on 30 points, fifth in the Bundesliga standings and ahead of Berlin thanks to their superior goal difference, a victory against Martin Schmidt's Mainz could take them to fourth place just below, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim who take on Ralph Hassenhüttl's RB Leipzig later today. The season so far has been very inconsistent for Dortmund, there have been periods of games where they have looked unbeatable whereas some games have left much to be desired from the players, nonetheless they are still in contention for the Champions league places and will look to make a winning start fresh from an excellent winter break and a positive start to 2017 against Bremen.
For Schmidt's side a victory against Tuchel's Dortmund will certainly be a huge boost for them and end their poor form of late, Die Nullfünfer have managed to win just one of thier past six games in the Bundesliga and have been guilty of poor defending, but that could all change with a victory at home against Dortmund as they look to adjust to life without key player Yunus Malli, who left the club recently for Vfl Wolfsburg. Malli's departure has increased the pressure on the likes of Jhon Córdoba and Pablo de Blasis to improve their goals record.
Dortmund's form away from home has been inconsistent to say the least, having only won thrice, drawn thrice and lost thrice, which has led to loss of vital points for Tuchel as their hopes of challenging Bayern Münich once again for the title faded early in the season.
Mainz on the other hand have been relatively solid at home having lost only twice and drawn twice, winning four as Schmidt looks to lead his side back into the Europa League places they did so well to attain last season.
Mainz hoping to get one over former boss
Mainz and Dortmund have a special bond in some ways, both clubs have had the pleasure of being managed by two of the finest coaches German football has produced, Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel, the former spent all his career at Mainz before taking up the mantle as manager and Tuchel was his assistant during that time, later becoming the coach and successfully managing the club for five years.
Now Tuchel's former assistant Schmidt is at the helm and has been the manager for the past two years, leading the club to some fantastic moments in his time so far at the club. However, things do not look great for Schmidt's men at the moment, sitting 11th on the Bundesliga standings, still some way off from the Europa League places they hope to achieve once again this season.
The early parts of the 2016/17 season saw Mainz pick up four wins at home and while they might seem solid at the Opel Arena, it is their form away from home that has been of great concern for manager Schmidt and his team. Die Nullfünfer have won just twice on the road and have lost their last five away games which has been a major reason for their mid-table position at the moment.
The goals and assists from midfield were a big part of Mainz's good performances early in the season, with Malli and de Blasis providing and scoring 19 goals for the club. With Malli's departure, it is now more important than ever for the likes of Córdoba to peform better and score the goals the club needs him to, the Colombian is set to miss the clash against Dortmund but will need to step up his game on return from his suspension.In his absence, Yoshinori Muto will look to spearhead the Mainz attack and hope to create an impact against Tuchel's side.
Past clashes have seen Dortmund emerge victorious on five of the past six games, Mainz's last victory came in 2014 under then manager Tuchel and they will be hoping that this time they can get one over their former manager.
Dortmund look to gain lost ground on top four
Dortmund travel to Mainz in search of victory once again as former Mainz manager Tuchel hopes to gain three points against his former employers. The season so far has been a far cry from their impressive finish of last season where they came close to challenging Bayern but fell away in the end.
This season it looks as though a title challenge has gone cold, with Tuchel's young guns struggling to remain in the top four places with stiff competition from sides around them and RB Leipzig predominantly keeping Bayern on their heels on the top of the table.
Die Schwarzgelben have had trouble finding consistency in results so far this season and their form away from home has brought little joy, with just three victories so far in the season, Tuchel will be hoping to bring a change to that.
The departure of top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the African Cup of Nations left a need for a goalscorer for Tuchel and in their last match against Werder Bremen, he may just have found his solution in André Schürrle who struck in a 2-1 victory to kick off 2017 on a positive note for his side.
Now that Aubameyang has returned from international duty, he will be hoping to get back to scoring goals for Dortmund, he leads the Bundesliga scoring charts with 16 goals so far and looking unstoppable in front of goal. Scoring goals against Mainz has never been a problem for Tuchel's side as well as other Bundesliga teams and this season has seen the Opel Arena become a place for a goalfest as Mainz have managed to concede 32 goals in their past eight matches at home.
History supports Dortmund in this clash, with Tuchel's side emerging victorious on five of their past six encounters against Mainz and a victory against Schmidt's side will take them one step closer to cementing their place in the top four.
Predicted XIs and Injury news
For Mainz, key absentees will be Colombian Córdoba as well as Leon Balogun and Karim Onisiwo, who remain out of the side with injuries.
1.FSV Mainz 05 Predicted XI : Lössl ,Donati, Bell, Bungert , Bussmann, Frei, Latza, Gbamin,Öztunali, Jairo, Muto
Tuchel's Dortmund have just two notable absentees in Nuri Sahin and Sven Bender as both central midfielders remain sidelined with knee and ligament problems.
Borussia Dortmund Predicted XI : Bürki , Piszczek, Sokratis, Ginter, Schmelzer (c), Weigl, Götze, Guerreiro, Dembele, Reus, Aubameyang