This weekend sees a battle at the bottom of the Bundesliga table as 17th place Mainz hosts 14th place Werder Bremen at the Opel Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Mainz did have a solid showing during the week, to their credit, as they were able to get a point on the road against a talented Hertha Berlin team. Bremen weren’t too bad either, as they put up a fight at home to Borussia Dortmund, but they were ultimately beaten after Marco Reus poked home the rebound of his saved penalty attempt.
Both clubs will still be looking to pick up the win this time around, as Mainz aims to climb out of the relegation zone while Bremen tries to avoid falling back down into it.
Mainz are only dealing with a few injuries, but those absences are affecting various areas of the pitch. Fullback Philipp Mwene is unavailable due to a problem with his ankle, while midfielder Levin Oztunali and forward Adam Szalai won’t feature either.
Bremen, meanwhile, are unchanged in terms of player availability. Milot Rashica and Niclas Fullkrug are both still out for the time being, while Davie Selke is yet to recover from his thigh issue.
Mainz: Zentner, St. Juste, Hack, Niakhate, Brosinski, Fernandes, Kunde, Caricol, Boetius, Mateta, Quaison
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Veljkovic, Toprak, Friedl, Gebre Selassie, Eggestein, Gross, Mohwald, Augustinsson, Bittencourt, Osako
Ones to watch
He was rested during the week, but Jean-Philippe Mateta will certainly return to the starting lineup on Saturday.
Mainz’s most dangerous attacker by a country mile, he’s their top scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, which is seven more than second place Robin Quaison.
Mateta is a very well-rounded striker, which makes him a nightmare for opposing defenders. He’s both fast and strong, so he can either hold the ball up or run in behind with equal ease. The scariest thing about the Frenchman is his finishing ability, as he’s just so clinical whenever he gets a chance.
It’s no surprise to see that Mainz couldn’t score without him against Hertha Berlin. He’s their danger man after all, so don’t be too surprised if Mateta marks his return to the team with a goal or two this weekend.
The frontmen aren’t firing for Bremen, so there’s added pressure on the team’s midfielders to push up and bolster the attack. That is why Kevin Mohwald could be key this weekend.
He was able to find the back of the net once again versus Dortmund, which was his second goal of the season. Finding space on the edge of the area, Mohwald managed to curl a first time effort into the bottom corner. It was a quality finish from the center midfielder, which almost got his side a point on the night.
Bremen will likely need more of the same from him if they want any chance of winning against Mainz. A combination of injuries, tactics, and poor form have meant the forwards at the club aren’t getting on the scoresheet. They need more support, and Mohwald will look to provide that against a side who could sit deep and absorb pressure defensively.
Mohwald has his flaws, as he’s inconsistent and commits too many fouls, but he’s shown glimpses of promise during his return from injury. If anyone’s going to be the difference for Bremen, it might just be him.
Last time out
The two sides faced off on the penultimate weekend of last season at the Opel Arena with a lot to play for. Both were in the midst of a relegation battle, which meant the contest was a real six pointer.
After a chaotic start to proceedings, Mainz would take the lead through Robin Quaison. Bremen thought they had cleared the ball off the line in heroic fashion, but the Swedish international was able to head the ball back across the line to open the scoring.
It would be 2-0 only five minutes later, as Jean-Paul Boetius rifled a shot from the edge of the area into the bottom corner. The finish was nice, but the assist was the real highlight, as Danny Latza flicked the ball to his teammate in style after dancing past a few defenders.
Bremen didn’t go down without a fight, to be fair. They halved the deficit at the hour mark as Davy Klaassen was able to find Yuya Osako in the area before the forward slammed a shot off the underside of the bar and into the back of the net.
It wasn’t enough though, as Mainz put the game to bed late on courtesy of a smart run and finish from former West Ham United man Edimilson Fernandes. The win secured safety for the home side, while Bremen were ultimately able to stay up after beating FC Heidenheim in the relegation-playoff.
How to watch
The contest won’t be aired in the UK, but those in the United States will be able to watch the action unfold on ESPN+.