15:30 (CEST), Saturday 19th August, Opel Arena (Mainz, Germany)
Coming off a disappointing campaign last time out, Mainz will be out to prove the doubters with a much better showing this season. A change was necessary at Mainz with Martin Schmidt sacked as manager and Mainz II coach Sandro Schwarz thrown into the hot seat this season. Mainz have brought in the experienced Rene Adler and Alexandru Maxim and parted ways with the incumbent Jhon Córdoba and sent Jonas Lössl on loan to Huddersfield Town.
Hannover are back in the big time and two familiar names spearhead the club with manager André Breitenreiter and sporting director Horst Heldt. The Schalke flavour helped Hannover gain promotion and the club has brought in plenty of quality players to help the club avoid the drop this season. Starting off the season well is important for both sides, who has the desire will be telling from the outset.
Last Time Out
Lüneburger SK Hansa 1-3 Mainz (DFB Pokal)
Mainz made the journey north to Bardowick in Germany’s north to face-off against Lüneburger SK Hansa. The game was a good tester for Mainz who were pushed all the way by their plucky Regionalliga Nord side. It would be Mainz who took the lead on 13 minutes as Yoshinori Muto tapped home from close range. Lüneburger would then level the ledge on 31 minutes thanks to a deflected effort from Felix Vobejda.
But before the break Mainz were given a penalty and left back Daniel Brosinski obliged by sending Ole Springer the wrong way. Mainz would then put the game beyond doubt as Muto found the back of the net to give Sandro Schwarz his first domestic victory as Mainz manager.
Bonner SC 2-6 Hannover (DFB Pokal)
It was raining goals in the town of Bonn in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia as Regionalliga West side Bonner SC met Hannover. It would be the 4th tier side who opened the scoring when Lars Lokotsch surprised the masses to give Bonner the lead. That lasted all but 14 minutes as Niclas Füllkrug levelled the scores. Hannover would then add two more to make it 3-1 for the visitors with Martin Harnik and then Füllkrug securing his brace to give André Breitenreiter’s men some comfort.
But Bonner hung around and made it uncomfortable for Hannover when Nico Perrey’s creative flick deceived Philipp Tschauner. But Hannover turned on the fryer in stoppage time with 3 goals in 3 minutes to secure a 6-2 victory.
In Sandro Schwarz’s first Bundesliga game as charge of Mainz we can expect he will produce a passionate speech to rev up the troops on matchday. No injuries to speak of from the win in Bardowick and I can’t see Schwarz tinkering with the winning side. A 4-2-3-1 formation is expected with Yoshinori Muto leading the line for Mainz.
In André Breitenreiter’s third Bundesliga campaign, it will be his third club he has managed in the first division with Paderborn and Schalke currently on the resume. There is a new flavour to the Hannover team with as many as three of their new signings set to start with Matthias Ostrzolek, Julian Korb and Pirmin Schwegler set to get the nod on Saturday. Salif Sané will miss the opening clash due to suspension where he was sent off against Stuttgart in week 33 of last season. His replacement will be Florian Hübner.
Key Battle: Stefan Bell vs Martin Harnik
Two experienced Bundesliga campaigners will do battle on matchday one as Mainz captain Stefan Bell will look to nullify the impact of Hannover striker Martin Harnik. Bell was undoubtedly Mainz’s best player last season and his defensive exploits kept the club from relegation. The Mainz captain did just about everything last season, winning 50% of duels last season whilst also being a threat at set-piece where he popped up to score 5 goals.
Harnik has been a Bundesliga regular for some time but last season applied his trade with Hannover in the second tier. The Austrian international had his best scoring season since 2011/12 where he levelled that tally of 17 goals as he helped Hannover secure promotion to the Bundesliga. Harnik’s previous two seasons in the top flight welded only 11 goals from 47 appearances, the question remains can Harnik carry over his goal scoring exploits from last season and help Hannover down Mainz?
Muto’s the man
With Mainz selling Jhon Córdoba to fellow Bundesliga side Köln, it means that Yoshinori Muto is now the main man leading the line this season. Muto has been quite unlucky in his two-year spell with Mainz with injury somewhat derailing his time on the pitch. In 39 appearances, Muto has 12 goals but the Japanese forward is certainly a massive threat going forward. Mainz’s number 9 will be looking to impress new boss Sandro Schwarz and give his club the best possible start to the season.
After a terrible campaign in 2015/16 which saw the club relegated, Hannover struggled initially under Daniel Stendel. Once Horst Heldt came in, it was evident that he was going to make changes in which he did, booting Stendel for André Breitenreiter. A manager just 12 months prior he had brought from Paderborn to Schalke. It was a breath of fresh air for Hannover as they went unbeaten for the remainder of the season and secure promotion. With a fresh start in the Bundesliga, is André Breitenreiter the right man to lead Hannover into a state of safety?
Prediction: Mainz 1-1 Hannover
In what should be an interesting contest, I believe Mainz will cause a real threat to Hannover in the initial outset. But as the game goes on, there is no reason that Hannover won’t take some control. Between the minutes of 60 and 75 are when Hannover is most dangerous, they scored 14 of their 51 goals in that time-span. Both teams will find the back of the net but a draw is the most likely result I can foresee.
Will it be Mainz or Hannover celebrating at the end of week 1? Let us know in the comments section below.
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