15:30 (CEST), Saturday 9th September, Opel Arena (Mainz, Germany)
It’s been a less than ideal start for both sides. Mainz are yet to pick up a point and join Köln and Werder Bremen rooted to the foot of the table, whilst Bayer Leverkusen secured just a point in their last fixture against Hoffenheim.
It’s very difficult for Mainz as they faced the two newly promoted sides in Hannover and Stuttgart and came up empty-handed in contests where they had good chances to come away with at least a point.
Bayer Leverkusen have been very competitive in both outings and similar to Mainz, they shot themselves in the foot too many times and came away with an undesirable result.
Who can break their duck for the 2017/18 campaign and secure a win in Week 3?
Last time out
Stuttgart 1-0 Mainz
After controlling Hannover for most of last week, Sandro Schwarz’s side came up empty-handed thanks to a Martin Harnik goal.
Against Stuttgart, Mainz had a tougher time breaking down what was a back five set-up by Stuttgart manager Hannes Wolf. In an entertaining game, both sides had good chances in the first half, but nothing forthcoming.
In the 55th minute, Stuttgart opened the scoring thanks to a scorching header from Holger Badstuber, leaving Rene Adler no chance.
Mainz had a chance to equalise late on, but a fantastic save from Ron-Robert Zieler saw the visitors squander points.
Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Hoffenheim
With defeat in Week 1, Leverkusen returned home looking to get onto the winners’ list as they faced Hoffenheim.
Heiko Herrlich’s side dominated from the outset and were rewarded when Ermin Bičakčić fouled Julian Brandt, with Wendell scoring the subsequent spot kick. Hoffenheim equalised, however, through Andrej Kramarić just after half-time.
Bayer rallied to retake the lead just two minutes later thanks to an excellent finish from Karim Bellarabi for his first of the season.
But lightning struck twice as Hoffenheim equalised once more in the 70th minute through Mark Uth.
Leverkusen bossed Hoffenheim around and only have themselves to blame as they left two points on the table.
Sandro Schwarz’s side has shown plenty of positive signs going forward, but their lack of finishing has cost them as they sit at the foot of the table.
Jean-Philippe Gbamin is set to make his return after missing the first two weeks due to a thigh problem, but the Ivorian will settle for a place on the bench as Danny Latza and Fabian Frei remain in central midfield.
From the side beaten by Stuttgart in Week 2, Viktor Fischer is expected to come back into the starting lineup with Robin Quaison.
Bayer Leverkusen Lineup
Bayer Leverkusen performed solidly last week but should’ve come away with the three points against Hoffenheim.
Manager Heiko Herrlich went in a different tactical direction after deploying a 3-4-3 formation, but for the contest with Mainz, I expect Leverkusen to return to a 4-2-3-1.
Bayer will be sweating on the fitness of Jonathan Tah. If fit he will play, but if he is unavailable, we could see new signing Panagiotis Retsos make his first appearance since joining from Olympiacos.
Key Battle: Danny Latza vs Dominik Kohr
Two midfield brutes go head to head in Week 3 as Mainz’s Danny Latza will face-off against Bayer Leverkusen’s Dominik Kohr.
Latza has made a strong start to the season, ranking eighth in the Bundesliga for tackles made (21). The Mainz midfielder has also won 54% of those tackles attempted, 100% of his take-ons and 46% of his aerial duels.
Kohr doesn’t light up the stats board, but it’s the intangibles that have already made a significant difference in the Leverkusen midfield.
Bayer were dominated regularly in midfield last year, but Kohr has brought stability and strength that Leverkusen didn’t have. A hard-nosed midfielder, if he makes his presence known in the middle, Leverkusen should take the points.
Plenty will need to go right for Danny Latza and Mainz if they are to secure a win, however.
Getting off the mark
No goals and no points make for grim reading for Mainz fans, who wouldn’t have pencilled in two defeats to the promoted sides in Hannover and Stuttgart.
Worryingly, Mainz are yet to hit the back of the net even though they’ve nearly had as many shots on goal as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Shots on target are an even 50%, but shooting past the keeper has been an issue.
Against Hannover, keeper Philipp Tschauner made only four saves as his side took the points and then Ron-Robert Zieler was forced into three.
Testing the keeper is one thing, but can Mainz break their scoring drought in Week 3 against Bernd Leno?
The Brandt factor
Julian Brandt made his return to the starting XI last time out against Hoffenheim and it made a world of difference for Bayer Leverkusen.
In Bayer’s opening fixture against Bayern Munich, Brandt came off the bench, but when he came on Leverkusen were a more dangerous threat going forward and it was the German that set up the opener against Hoffenheim the following week, drawing the foul from Ermin Bičakčić.
Will Brandt be a difference maker again or can Mainz contain the German starlet?
PREDICTION: Mainz 0-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Over the past two weeks, Bayer Leverkusen have shown plenty of signs that a win is just around the corner, whilst Mainz haven’t been able to produce a consistent 90 minutes yet.
Going forward, Mainz just don’t have the firepower that Leverkusen possess and defensively the likes of Stefan Bell and Abdou Diallo will need to be on their game or the scoreline I’ve predicted could be more.
In the battle of the new managers, it will be Heiko Herrlich celebrating his first three points as Leverkusen boss.
Will it be Mainz or Bayer Leverkusen who secure their first win of the season? Let us know in the comments section below.
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