After dismantling Tottenham Hotspur midweek, Borussia Dortmund welcome FSV Mainz 05 to town, the former employers of Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel. Mainz and Dortmund have a friendly relationship with one another, one that was strengthened once again after the 05ers defeated Bayern at the Allianz Arena a week and a half ago. Despite the freundschaft, Mainz will be looking to repeat that same success they found against Bayern in search of a top four spot.
Date and Time: Sunday, March 13th, 12:30 PM EST
TV (USA): Fox Sports 2
Referee: Denis Aytekin
Mainz are quietly enjoying another strong season, sitting in sixth place under manager Martin Schmidt and highly regarded sporting director Christian Heidel. With Heidel on his way to Schalke at the end of the season, he'll certainly take some enjoyment out of beating BVB.
In the January transfer window, Dortmund were going after Mainz attacker Yunus Malli, but Mainz refused to sell and Malli stayed put. The playmaker has been in good form in the Ruckrunde, playing in the 10 behind striker Jhon Cordoba, who has performed very well in the absence of injured striker Yoshinori Muto. Cordoba, on loan from Granada, scored the winner against Bayern. Another impressive player for Mainz is left winger Jairo Samperio, who has scored six goals and assisted eight so far in the Bundesliga. Jairo is an exciting, young Spanish prospect, with a hell of a right foot, who could become the next Bundesliga star. Along with Malli and Cordoba, Mainz possess a very potent attacking trio.
These guys aren't doing it by themselves, though. Midfielders Danny Latza and Julian Baumgartlinger's midfield partnership has arguably been Mainz biggest key to success. The captain Baumgartlinger is the more defensive minded of the two and the better passer, while Latza is the key link from defense to attack, similar to Ilkay Gundogan. Latza's energy is also key to Mainz success, as his pressing allows him to create many chances for his aforementioned prolific attacking teammates. Signed to be a back-up to Johannes Geis' replacement Fabian Frei, Danny Latza has taken over the spot held by Geis, with much success.
Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images
On the Dortmund side of things, we could see some rotation from the side that featured in the Europa League beatdown. Ilkay Gundogan reported himself to be doubtful for this match with a foot injury sustained in training, meaning we could see a more defensive midfield with Nuri Sahin and Julian Weigl in a 4-2-3-1 set up that would be able to fend off Mainz's pressing. That would likely see Erik Durm relegated to the bench, despite strong performances against Spurs and Bayern, while Gonzalo Castro could get another start, or possibly out of favor Shinji Kagawa.
However, Tuchel will likely opt to keep Durm and Castro in the line-up, as Durm has proven himself to be a quality right midfielder over the past few games, and Castro as a suitable replacement for Gundogan in attack. One of Tuchel's most impressive feats in the Ruckrunde so far has been his ability to rotate the team while maintaining the quality of performance and winning results. That being said, it's hard to call what his set up may be against an impressive Mainz side, but it might be hard to switch up the team after Thursday's masterclass. Sven Bender was subbed off in the 58th minute due to injury, which didn't seem to be much more than muscle cramps, but he's been ruled out, meaning former Mainz man Neven Subotic will almost certainly replace him. Sokratis has also returned to the team, but might have to settle for a spot on the bench.
Dortmund have fared quite well against Mainz in recent times, undefeated in their last ten home games against the 05ers. In the reverse fixture, Dortmund delivered a 2-0 win on the road in a game where Reus scored the opener, then missed a penalty. In terms of form, Mainz have won five of their last seven Bundesliga matches, but have lost three of their last five on the road. They'll be without their right back, Giulio Donati, who picked up a red card against Darmstadt in their last match. Donati, who joined Mainz from Leverkusen in January, has started five games since joining the team.
Against Bayern, Mainz manager Martin Schmidt went with a back three, with wing backs who could form a back five when not in possession, a tactic that Tuchel copied and used against Bayern as well. With Mainz not likely to see much possession against Dortmund, there's a possibility that Schmidt goes with the same plan again. They would have to rely on the counter-attack to get most of their goalscoring chances, which could be hard to come by as Dortmund's defense has transformed into a very effective unit.
Dortmund of course are favored in this one, but Mainz are no pushover and will likely provide Dortmund with a tough task at home. Mainz have much more to play for than the hosts do, but Dortmund will look to maintain pace with Bayern to keep alive the already slim hopes of a title race. We'll have our predictions up later, but in the meantime feel free to comment and let me know what you'd like to see from Dortmund and Tuchel in this match!
Dortmund: Burki, Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer, Weigl, Castro, Durm, Reus, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang
Mainz: Karius, Brosinski, Bungert, Balogun, Bussmann, Baumgartlinger, Latza, Samperio, Malli, Clemens, Cordoba