19:30 (BST); Friday 20th October; Veltins Arena (Gelsenkirchen, Germany) BT Sport 1
Schalke enter Matchday 9 in relatively good form as they welcome Mainz to Gelsenkirchen to open this weekend’s Bundesliga fixtures. Mainz are on their best streak under new manager Sandro Schwarz, going into this clash off the back of a three-game unbeaten run. Last time out, Nullfünfer took all three points at Hamburg’s expense.
Domenico Tedesco’s Schalke side are slowly finding form and their win in Berlin showed the side’s character, having going winless for three consecutive matches. A victory for Schalke will keep them in reach of the top four whilst Mainz can enter the top half of the standings for the first time this season if they can take the points on Friday night.
Last Time Out
Hertha Berlin 0-2 Schalke
Schalke made the journey to the capital looking for their second away win of the season as they took on Hertha Berlin. The Royal Blues were given an excellent opportunity to take an early advantage when Genki Haraguchi was given his marching orders. The Japanese internation was rightly given his marching orders just before halftime when he hacked at Guido Burgstaller.
It wouldn’t be until the second half that Schalke took the lead though: the nifty Amine Harit weaved through the Hertha defence before being brought down by Vladimir Darida. Leon Goretzka stepped up and duly scored his third of the season. Burgstaller then put the game beyond doubt: the Austrian striker getting his second goal of this campaign. A huge win for Schalke, they move to 6th in the standings.
Mainz 3-2 Hamburg
Mainz entered Matchday 8 of the season sitting in the bottom six. Coming up against a Hamburg side winless in their last five, Nullfünfer got off to a lightning start, grabbing a goal in opening two minutes: Giulio Donati the provider and Alexandru Maxim with the finish. The Mainz joy lasted all of seven minutes though when Walace scored from close range.
Mainz clawed their way back in front when Stefan Bell redirected Abdou Diallo’s initial header into the empty net. They then made it three moments later when Danny Latza’s shot was spilled into the back of the net by Christian Mathenia. Hamburg would pull a goal back in stoppage time through Sejad Salihovic but it was Mainz who collected all three points.
Domenico Tedesco made multiple changes to his side with great success as Schalke took the three points in Berlin. In that game, the young coach utilised in a 3-5-2 formation which worked well for Schalke.
Alessandro Schöpf is thought to have made a long-awaited return from injury but it is likely that he will remain on the bench until he reaches full fitness. A decision about Weston McKennie will be given closer to the game: if the American does return, though, he will be on the bench.
An important win for Mainz see’s Nullfünfer climb up the table, but they face a stern test in Schalke. Sandro Schwarz gambled by starting Alexandru Maxim but he was rewarded when the Romanian scored last time out.
Yoshinori Muto was a substitute against Hamburg but he will return into the starting lineup in place of Robin Quaison. Expect Mainz to lineup in a 4-2-3-1 although this could easily become a 5-4-1 with Jean-Philippe Gbamin dropping into defence.
Key Battle: Bastian Oczipka vs Giulio Donati
Two attacking wing backs are set to face-off in Gelsenkirchen in the match between Schalke and Mainz. Bastian Oczipka was brought in by as the replacement for Sead Kolasinac and, so far, the 28-year-old has acquitted himself well in Schalke colours. In seven appearances, he has produced one assist for the Royal Blues. On the other hand, his opponent Giulio Donati has been with Mainz since 2016 during which time the Italian right back has made 57 appearances for Nullfünfer in all competitions.
In terms of their playing styles Oczipka and Donati are similar although, in certain areas, one outweighs the other. Oczipka is more comfortable with possession and picking a pass, averaging a 76% pass completion rate to Donati’s 69%. He is also more of a threat going forward where the Schalke wing back has created 17 chances to Donati’s 9. However, Donati is statistically stronger defensively, winning 15 tackles to Oczipka’s 10 and making 17 interceptions to 9.
Struggles in Gelsenkirchen
Mainz manager Sandro Schwarz will hope for a change of fortune when his side makes the trip to Gelsenkirchen on Friday. In the 24 Bundesliga meetings between the two sides thus far, Mainz have only won three times at the Veltins Arena with their last triumph coming in the 2010/11 season under Thomas Tuchel.
Since then, Mainz have only secure two draws in Gelsenkirchen, with Schalke scoring 13 goals to Mainz’s 3 since their last victory on the road. History is against Mainz, then, as they look to defy the odds against Schalke.
Schalke need to create more
Although Schalke produced their best performance of the season in the capital, it certainly felt that Domenico Tedesco’s side took the conservative approach in their win over Hertha Berlin. During the match, Schalke had 11 shots on goal which was only the 13th best for week 8. At the defensive end, it will need to be more of the same. Expect Schalke to fire on all cylinders in attack though.
Prediction: Schalke 2-1 Mainz
In the 25th Bundesliga meeting between the two sides, history has suggested that Schalke should secure the points to open week 9. However, the clash will be much closer than expected. Mainz have looked very dangerous going forward in the past few weeks and only need to tighten up their defensive fragilities to be a real challenge for the stronger sides.
Schalke need to come out of the gates flying and should look to put the game to bed early. If Schalke manage to put away Mainz in Gelsenkirchen, they will consider it a very successful matchday.
Can Schalke make it two on the spin? Or will Mainz stroll out of Gelsenkirchen with all three points? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below
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